Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Rogue Meeting of top outfitters: Whitewater Raftingecologically

By Lynn Seldon
Edited by Whitewater Times

It’s 7am and I’m already sitting in a meeting talking about my Mother, as in Mother Nature with top outfitters from all over the U.S.
I thought I was just going to enjoy a four-day paddle on Oregon’s Rogue River and chat with some rogue paddling company owners about their various Whitewater Rafting and offerings.
We weren’t supposed to meet until nine, but we’d gotten a bit behind on the agenda the night before and they didn‘t want to miss a mid-morning put-in on the Rogue. I’m attending this annual meeting as an “embedded reporter” to learn more about Adventure Gateway, a consortium of high-quality paddling companies. They get together once a year to paddle some of America’s top rivers and to discuss business practices--both good and bad. They’ve promised me full access to them during their formal (and many informal) meetings--including much discussion about the environment and eco-tourism.

Before I’m finished my first cup of coffee, they‘re covering serious ground about the environment--including river lunches for dozens of rafters that leave no trace, attaining “Wild & Scenic“ river status (the Rogue has it), and building environmentally sensitive lodging options on budget. These men and women take river running and the health of their rivers (and businesses) very seriously.

Several Adventure Gateway companies have developed ecologically sensitive lodging options (Class VI River Runners in West Virginia is the most recent), while others have worked for years to keep rivers clean and free from excessive development. For instance, Echo River Trips owners Dick Lindford and Joe Daly were heavily involved (as was paddler- and river-focused Patagonia) in achieving Wild & Scenic status for the Tuolumne (Joe served as president of the Tuolumne River Preservation Trust for 11 years), while Wildwater founder Jim Greiner successfully pursued similar status for the Chattooga (he started his company the same year the feature film, Deliverance, was released).

I’m fascinated about their open nature in discussions of specific financial matters and ideas (both dollars and sense)--all in the hope of finding “nuggets” they can use in their own companies and rivers. For instance, before we break to hit the Rogue, Dee Holladay, founder of Holiday Expeditions, provides an overview of their “Journey with Our River Sage” program. For this popular offering, lucky paddlers get to spend quality time on a river with Dee, a 45-year whitewater veteran. With hundreds of years of whitewater experience in the room, this is a nugget several other company owners (and river sages) will be copying.

Some of these long-time owners obviously hoped to find a nugget or three from Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard, in that several coincidentally brought along Let My People Go Surfing for some late-night homework by lantern light.

Many outfitters will be following this group of idea makers for the future planning and trip offerings for environmental considerations within their business plan in river rafting expeditions.

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