In 1963…

Lou Elliott, a printer by profession and an outdoorsman by passion, acted on his belief that something good would come from rafting down the wild rivers of the west.

He felt that by simply floating through these magical canyons, people would become wilderness advocates.

He felt that by simply seeing these grand places, people would fight for their protection.

He felt that by simply spending time with each other in the natural world, families would grow closer.

And he knew that it would be fun.

Non-profit? Of course, because these places belong to all of us and without them we are all diminished.

Donate our profits to conservation? Of course, because these places need to be here for the future and because without them we have no business now.

Treat people like they are family? Of course, because we’re all in this together; not just this trip, but also this life, this world.

And so it started. Bumpy at first, with wrong turns, wet sleeping bags and broken down trucks, but we learned. We innovated. We improved. We taught others, too, and pretty soon everyone was doing it. Which was fine, because the rivers were under attack and we needed more friends to help protect them. We fought some battles; won a lot (Echo Park, Wild and Scenic Rivers System, Grand Canyon, Tuolumne) and lost a few (Glen Canyon, Stanislaus). We explored new rivers; some successfully (Selway, Illinois), some not (Niagara). We developed new techniques and equipment, some still in use (paddle rafts), some not (fol-boats). We paved the way for women guides. We discovered fleece. And through it all, we had fun.

Lou and his fellow ARTA pioneers gave way to subsequent generations of guides and guests who not only carried on the tradition and the commitment, but bolstered it with new ideas and new energy and new passion. Happily, we started to see second and third generation guides and guests on our trips; people who took trips when they were kids coming back with their own kids; people who guided for us in their twenties sending their teenagers off to grow up on the river. How humbling. How comforting. How cool. Treat people like they’re part of your family and, well, you can’t get rid of them.

Today, well, it’s more fun than it used to be. Not so many worries about buses getting lost or sleeping bags getting wet or trucks catching on fire. Not so many worries about dams getting built. More time for hikes and games and laughs; more time for thinking about the future and each other.

We run fantastic river trips on the best rivers in the west and we conduct the most awesome guide training program in the world. We take care of the rivers and canyons and we look after each other. And we have fun. It’s really not that different from what Lou started back in 1963.

We would love to have you join us.