Sometimes, taking a river trip can change your life.


Sometimes canceling one can too.

We got a phone call from George Zollner the other day.

He was asking about a 6-day Westwater Canyon trip that he had reserved, paid for, and then had to cancel. He couldn’t find any record of a refund from ARTA and was wondering if we had any information.

George and Carlene Zollner - canceled

The trip was in 1972.

And he wasn’t looking for a refund as much as he was looking for the answer to the mystery of why he didn’t actually take the trip.

He followed up in writing and included some supporting documentation.

Let’s let George tell it…

December 20, 2020

To: The American River Touring Association

I am writing this letter to ask for your help in solving a mystery that dates back to 1972. I was going through old papers and files as one would do after their spouse passes away, (Carlene passed away in April), when I discovered a file dating back to 1972 that has papers that indicate that Carlene Raquet (my wife’s maiden name), Tim Pasich (who has also passed away) and myself had signed on to a rafting trip with ARTA.

I am sending copies of documents that show we were fully paid on June 28, 1972 for a Westwater Canyon 6-day trip scheduled to launch on August 1, 1972.

We never did it!

Had we, it would have been a lifetime memory. I have contacted everyone that might have a recollection, and no one could recall any details. One of the documents (copy) I am sending appears to have a half-page missing that might have been our request for a refund? I don’t have a copy of that half-page in my papers here.

So if there is any archive at your organization, which back then was at 1016 Jackson Street, Oakland, California, that could be accessed… perhaps the missing detail about our cancelled adventure could be found. I know this is an “off-the-wall” request, but if possible, I’d like to know what happened so many years ago that made us cancel such an exciting adventure.

Please do what you can and let me know what you find.

George Zollner
Battle Creek, MI

1972 ARTA Brochure
A whitewater rafting oar

FROM: Steve Welch, ARTA River Trips
George Zollner
Hmmmm – I don’t think we can help

Dear George –

June 28, 1972! Our records barely go back to June 28, 2020. 🙂

We did run Westwater Canyon trips in 1972, but the reason for why your trip never happened may be lost to the sands of time.

I’m sorry we can’t help solve your mystery.

But we would love to hear more if you are so inclined.

Steve Welch
ARTA River Trips

A whitewater rafting oar

January 20, 2021

To Steve Welch of ARTA

After finding a long-lost file detailing an ARTA trip that was never taken, I contacted you to help solve a mystery from 1972 when a good friend of mine Tim Pasick, my girlfriend Carlene Raquet, and I had signed up and paid deposit money to go rafting with ARTA.

The mystery was why didn’t we do the trip.

Had we gone, it would have been a lifelong treasury of memories and never forgotten. I couldn’t ask Tim, because he died in 2004. I couldn’t ask Carlene, who became my wife in 1973 and who passed away in April 2020. So I reached out to relatives and friends who knew us in 1972 and are still out there. Nobody could remember any details. That’s when I reached out to you for help. Thank you again Steve for contacting me and expressing interest.

After some more digging, I think I’ve discovered why the ARTA trip didn’t happen in 1972. I’d like to share what I know about the canceling and why that even happened, especially since I piqued your interest with my stories and questions.

It seems from a letter dated June 28, 1972 (the same date of a letter from ARTA to me confirming we launch on August 1), Carlene wrote me from California where she had traveled with her sister to try to get a better understanding of her life going forward and if “I” was the right choice for her going forward.

Since I wasn’t sure she was returning, I made the decision to cancel the rafting trip and recover our deposit.

canceled paperwork

Carlene seemed to think the San Francisco area had the answers she sought, because she went back again in the summer of 1973 to “clear her head”.

She came back, and we did get married in November.

I’m glad she finally chose me because we did amazing things and had a wonderful journey together for 47-plus years.

I’m including a photo of Carlene and me from 1972 to show you what we looked like then. Maybe it has merit enough to be on your office wall somewhere? It’s always nice to be remembered.

Also, we did take a raft trip in 1976 that may have been the same stretch of the Colorado River we had booked with ARTA? We did it with Carlene’s family and had a blast.

George and Carlene Zollner in 1972

The trip was 3 ½ days on the river. We stayed at a place called “The Electric Dude Ranch” for dinner, drinks, and lodging. The company name on the big raft was “Western Adventure Safaris” and we had two guides. It was a lot of fun.

I’m including several photos and some slides showing topography you might recognize along the Colorado. Also of interest are pictures of smaller, silver-colored rafts (4-man? 6-man?) that were navigating what our guides called “Skull Rapids” on the last day of our adventure. Maybe they were ARTA rafts and wouldn’t that be special if you had that part of your history to archive. During the whitewater portion, one of the silver rafts got hung up in an eddy and our big motorized raft went up current and pulled them out. I’m including what I can from the trip file to add detail. Hopefully it is a valuable addition to your history collection.

I’d love to hear back from you, especially if you can add detail or embellish what I shared. It’s been fun sharing this adventure and the associated stories from 1972 and 1976.

Best regards,
George Zollner

Photos from George Zollner's 1976 Westwater trip
A whitewater rafting oar

FROM: Steve Welch, ARTA River Trips
George Zollner

Thank you for sharing your captivating story (and for solving the mystery).

While we can’t be certain from your photos that the silver-colored rafts are indeed ARTA boats, for the purposes of this story, let’s just say that they are and that you have returned them home. (For the record, ARTA did have similar rafts, we were running Westwater trips in 1976, and we often got stuck in that big eddy below Skull – everyone did – so there is nothing to disprove our assumption).

I am querying all of the outfitter legends that I know to see what I can find out about Western Adventure Safaris. Should I discover anything, I will make sure that the remaining photos find their way to their proper place.

Except the one of you and Carlene.

That one is on my office wall.

ARTA has been at this for almost 60 years and I’ve been along for the last 37. This is one of the most memorable pieces of our history that I have heard (and by far the best ARTA story about an ARTA trip that never happened). Thank you for sharing.

And warm wishes from everyone at ARTA –


PS – Do we owe you a $525 refund?

A whitewater rafting oar

To: Steve Welch of ARTA

If I thought you owed me a refund (you don’t), I’d say donate it to river restoration and any of your excellent missions to save our special places for future generations.

Best regards,

If there is anything else I can share with you, please let me know.

Zollners in Westwater Canyon 1976
Carlene Zollner, 1976 Westwater Canyon
A whitewater rafting oar

FROM: Steve Welch, ARTA River Trips
George Zollner
Thank you

George –

We will make a donation of $525 on your behalf to an organization that is working to save our special places for future generations. Proudly. Thank you.

And I cannot thank you enough for this entire adventure.

All the best from everyone at ARTA –

Stay in touch,


A whitewater rafting oar

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