The season is pretty much over for most of us river guides here in Western Montana. Winter is knocking on our door and most us have already transitioned into our off-season. It was a great summer and I always feel so thankful to work around awesome people and call the river my office.
I could not be more stoked with what we accomplished this season as a team on and off the river. Of course we have a short list of things we need to do this off-season. Here at ZTS we bring a high level of enthusiasm to work every day and try to treat each trip like it’s our first. Our guests deserve it, and expect it. However, there is a reason the season ends and everyone needs a break from the daily grind of being a river guide.
I have found the transition into the off season can be difficult. I like the busy days, challenging logistics, and chaos that come with owning a river business. Don’t get me wrong, there is a day each season (okay maybe 2) where I ask myself: “why on earth am I doing this”, and I sit there and reflect next to a broken down vehicle or trailer. I go from not sleeping that much to wondering what the heck I’m going to do with myself. It takes a bit of time to transition into fall work and other jobs.
The season ends so quickly and it always feels a bit informal. I always think I’ll have one more opportunity to get everyone together for one last hurrah but then all of a sudden, it’s gone. So here it is: THANK YOU TO EVERYONE!!!
Here are some of the highlights from the 2019 season:
Surf lessons – We spent the 2018 season hammering out the kinks and this year we really committed. Kevin and Liam did an awesome job teaching lessons and we can’t wait to roll out some new opportunities for next season.
First year guides – It’s not easy being a first year guide but you have to start somewhere! We had quite a few first year guides this year. Sorrel, Clara, Mitch, Brit, Max, and Liam crushed it. The first season is always the hardest and I cannot be more proud of how much they all progressed.
International guides – We are striving to bring in more international talent to add some diversity to our work pool. Tommy came over from Chile and absolutely crushed. He brought a high level of professionalism and skills with him.
Record #’s – This summer was a big one for us. We continue to grow a little bit each season and more folks are picking Missoula as a destination town to come and visit. We want to offer more opportunities to folks who want to stay close to Missoula.
Perfect safety record – We did a great job focusing on safety while still having lots of fun. No employee or guest injuries on land or water!
These are just some of the highlights from the 2019 season. We are going to hit it hard this off-season and continue to find ways to improve and make our customer experience even better.
Thank you to all of our amazing guests, staff, family, and friends for supporting Zoo Town Surfers. It means the world to me!
The staff here at Zoo Town Surfers loves doing this write up a few times a year. Our list of favorite things to do in Missoula is constantly changing, as we evolve as Missoulians ourselves. We are going to keep it basic here, since you have the Internet to guide you toward the finer details.
What else would you do on a hot summer day? There are plenty of local outfitters that will take care of the dirty work for you. If you are on a time crunch, consider a sunset float through Hellgate Canyon. If you have a full day, check out the crystal clear waters of the storied Blackfoot River, just east of Missoula.
The Rattlesnake Recreation Area is an absolute gem, situated just north of Missoula. There are endless opportunities for hiking and biking, and you can choose to go as far as you want. It’s not the greatest place for canine friends, as you’ll need to keep them on a leash within a few miles of the main trail head.
Head on down to your local bike shop andrent a bike. Then head over to Blue Mountain or the Rattlesnake and get lost for a bit! Missoula boasts some of the state’s best mountain biking, with lots of fantastic trail systems. You’ll find something for everyone!
Missoula’s ever-changing food scene is sure to please, especially if you’re seeking sustenance after your adventures. If you visit in the summertime, check out the Saturday Clark Fork Farmer’s Market at Caras Park, right along the river. The Downtown Partnership also organizes “Out to Lunch” at Caras Park, each Wednesday June through August, where you can sample local food trucks and listen to live music mid-day. At Zoo Town Surfers, we all have our favorite haunts, and we’re happy to share our suggestions with you. Just give us a call!
Missoula is nothing without its beer. We have a few stellar breweries right in town, with more popping up each year. After each Zoo Town Surfers river trip, we serve up cold ones from Big Sky Brewing Co., whose westside tap room sits next to one of our favorite outdoor music venues, the Big Sky Brewing Co. Amphitheater!. We also serve up Draught Works beer as well which usually has a food truck. We love to see summertime shows at the new Kettlehouse Amphitheater, alongside the banks of the beautiful Blackfoot River. Kettlehouse Brewing has two tap rooms in Missoula proper; our afterwork go-to is the Kettlehouse Southside. And, of course, no visit to Missoula would be complete without a game of pool and some gumbo at the infamous Charlie B’s. You’ll find Charlie’s right downtown, at the corner of space and time. A double cocktail from Charlie’s won’t do you any favors athletically (or socially), but you can marvel at the faces of the local legends preserved in portraits on the walls, soak up the whiskey with southern fare from Dino Cafe, and belly up at any time of day, before or after your Missoula adventure!
The Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers merge together just five miles east of Missoula and offer some of the finest rafting and scenic river tours Montana has to offer. In the heat of summertime, there is nothing more inviting than spending a day on the river.
Here are three great options for easy float trips here in the Missoula valley. All sections are a great introduction to rafting and are ideal for families with young kids, beginner rafters, or anyone who needs to cool off after a hot day of land-based adventuring!
Hellgate Canyon Float
This is our classic summertime “town float”! You’ll cruise through dramatic Hellgate Canyon and past the University of Montana, and on down through vibrant downtown Missoula. This is the most popular section for inner-tubers and stand-up paddle-boarders, as well. When you pass through Brennan’s Wave, there’s a good chance you’ll see a flock of colorful local kayakers and river surfers – always excellent entertainment!
Milltown to Downtown Float
This float allows you to experience two classic Montana rivers in one day! River users put-in on the Blackfoot above historical Milltown, then cruise through the confluence with the Clark Fork River. Floaters pass the site of the old Milltown Dam, through East Missoula, and on toward the hustle and bustle of downtown Missoula proper.
Kona to Harper’s Float
Just a few miles west, or downstream, of Missoula, this section of the Clark Fork River boasts abundant scenery on a stretch known for its tranquility, swimming holes, and spectacular bird watching.
Etiquette for River Runners
It’s important to know the local code of ethics for enjoying Missoula’s rivers. Let us know if you have any questions, or if you need a little extra guidance on how to respectfully and safely float our rivers.
- No glass. If you bring beverages, bring them in cans. Golden rule of the obvious: NEVER, EVER throw your cans or bottles in the river..
- Pack it in, pack it out. Whatever you bring to the river (or river access) with you must also leave with you.
- Change clothes discreetly. Bring a towel or sarong for an easy quick-change privacy shield!
- Do not play loud music. Please don’t ruin our wilderness experience with your music. Even though you’re in Montana, not everyone wants to hear pop country on their river trip.
- Follow the laws and rules of the area that you are using. Educate yourself about the local regulations and norms for the land and water you’re recreating on,
- Consider taking a few minutes to pick up litter left by others. Taking good care of our rivers is a community effort. Thanks in advance for your help!
This is not the first blog I have written about personal lap bags and it will not be the last. The more time I spend on the river, the more my bag evolves. It also changes with the seasons and rivers that I’m working on. I don’t guide on any multi-day trips so this is what I carry for day trips on the local rivers.
I love my personal bag. The go to size is the Watershed Ocoee. You can fit a lot items inside the bag and it’s the most waterproof bag on the market.
Below is a list of the larger items:
- Patagonia R1 fleece
- Fleece hats
- Extra straps
- 8-1 Screwdriver
- ½ Socket
- Zip ties
- Multi tool
- Watershed Ocoee dry bag
- Snack bars
- Sunglass holders
- Energy shots
- Prussix/extra rope
- Sewing kit
- Bug juice
- Extra sunglasses
- Small first aid kit
- Stuff sack to hold items
Pen and paper, matches, cash, batteries, headlamp, lighter, earplugs, gloves, chapstick, and toilet paper (with doggie bag), hydration tablets.
We would love to hear what you carry in your bag! SYOTR!
1. Kokatat Dry Suit: Essential for working on the river and swimming in cold water.
2. Capilene base layer.
3. Kokatat Dry Top: Great option if you can’t afford drysuit and more versatile if you combine with bibs (#8). Can use all year long.
4. Kokatat Habanero Unisuit: Love this warm layer. Less bulk with uni-suit around the waist.!
5. NRS Helmet Liner: This keeps your head warm, you can also use a swim cap if you can’t afford one of these.
6. HydroFlask water bottle: Don’t forget to stay hydrated and also make sure to secure inside of boat.
7. Sweet Helmet.
8. Kokatat Bibs: Combine with dry top and stay dry. Super versatile piece of gear. I wear these more than my drysuit, especially when I’m guiding. More comfy for prepping lunch, rigging boats, and around camp if its rainy.
9. Rescue PFD: This is an industry standard for guiding. River knife, whistle (on elastic band), and watch are always attached.
10. Neoprene socks: Wear these on the outside of your drysuit/bib socks to prevent pin-holes and wear and tear from gravel/dirt that gets inside your shoes.
11. Neoprene mitts: Only ones that keep my hands warm
12. River booties/shoes: This is a whole separate topic. Just make sure you have good shoes that won’t fall off your feet if you take a swim
13. Salamander Guide Throw Bag: always on you when needed.
14. Ridgerest sleeping pad to change on: Why not spoil yourself?
15. Sprayskirt: To keep the water out and me inside my boat!
16. Personal lap bag: This contains extra layer, snacks, sunscreen, and about 30 other items. We will write another blog on what to pack inside your lap bag. I highly recommend Watershed Ocoee
17.Gear bag: Gotta put all this stuff in something. Keep some carabiners handy for strapping down, etc..The only time I forget a piece of gear is when I seperate it (usually for wash). Don’t separate your gear!