Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Every spring, they come. Sarong wearing boys, dread-naughted girls, tanned and wiry youths with powerful arms. If you didn't know better, you'd swear you'd stumbled on a Grateful Dead concert. All in all, it is sort of like a Grateful Dead or Rainbow gathering...except with paddles and life preservers and kayaks.

It's the invasion of the River Guides. They are usually accompanied by an undercover DEA or TBI agent or two...just to keep all the young folks honest. 'Cause, you know how rambunctious the young folk can get. And indeed, somebody falls victim to injudicious rambunctiousness every summer and is led away in cuffs.

Professional river guides are a rare and unique breed. They arrive from all corners of the states and travel around the country supplying skilled whitewater rafting services to rafting companies from Oregon to North Carolina. If they are lucky, the rafting company will provide lodging for them, but they are just as likely to live out of their vehicles. It's a rough life with no insurance, no benefits, no security, low pay but lots of fun and adventure. If the water is white and high, you will find them there.

Our little town of Hartford, brings in millions of dollars in tourism revenue every year from white water rafting. Indeed there are more rafting companies in Hartford than any other sort of business. They are the only reason they let us keep our tiny post office. So, it was distressing when the rumors started flying around about the rafting season ending early due to the drought. I noticed that the crowd at the Pigeon River Smokehouse had cleared considerably and I started asking questions.

The first I heard, was that the rafting companies were going to operate on a contingency basis. If there was rain, they might possibly run trips. Then I heard that many of the companies were being forced to refund reservation deposits. Finally, Friend Scott was asked by his cousin, one of the few local guides, to help him move from one of the rafting lodging houses. According to Scott's cousin, the rafting is done for the summer.

The problem is with the Waterville Dam that releases the water that creates our stage II - IV rapids. It is said that the river needs to rise 180 feet for the rapids to come back. We are going to need some serious rain for that to happen. And it looks like they are laying off the seasonal river guides.

Lets hope these guys can find wetter places to finish the summer's employment. And lets hope the rains in September will rescue our rafting companies and provide a nice fall run. If the weather is good, they sometimes run through October and, all hope is not lost.


  1. Maridmitch said...
    And we're getting buckets of rainfall here in Iowa. Go figure!
    Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...
    Still lots of water here in Canada, and some pretty spectacular rivers you want to head for the Arctic Ocean.

    I have always wanted to take the rafting trip on the Ottawa River, then again I don't like to feel terror!
    Anonymous said...
    They needn't bother coming over here to Hot Springs---our river rats seem to be spending an awful lot of time at the Paddler's Pub these days (which is way more dangerous than rafting---food poisoning anyone?).

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