My first spring here in West Virginia, I was training to be a whitewater raft guide in the New River Gorge. In March.
Right. It was cold. Unbelievably cold.
A lot of our initial trips found us on the icy river with snow still on the banks and freezing air. I wondered to myself if I was crazy for being out here in those conditions. The verdict is still out. Kind of.
Now that I’m older and wiser I doubt that I would do it over again in the early spring. But any guides do this every year; they come to train or be trained as a guide here in the New River Gorge. One of the guides who trained us that year was Jeff “Tiny” Elliott. At first, I figured Tiny was crazy. Later, I realized it wasn’t just him. They’re all that way. It’s a good kind of crazy.
Tiny many of our trips that spring fun and he was able to teach me a lot about the river. He had guided all over and was well versed in hydrology. He made reading a river seem simple and interesting while at the same time making sure all was well with the entire team of trainers and trainees.
That’s what guides do. They’re not only here to provide a great experience for the guests, they also have to be aware of all that is going on on the ever changing river. They make sure that everyone pulls their own weight in the boat and take up the slack for those who can’t. All of this to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip on the river. River guides are often full of…what’s the word…lore…yeah, that’s it… and interesting facts about the area and what went on here in years past.
River guides are awesome. Think about it:
- They know the river
- They know their history
- They know their flora and fauna
- They are educated in first aid and some are EMT’s
- Some of them can cook
- They are responsible for hundreds of people each season
The list goes on and on. Try a raft trip on either the New or the Gauley River this year (we can help you out if you don’t know what trip to book). Quiz your guides, and you’ll be surprised at what they know. I know I always am.