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Western River Guides: The Heart of What Makes us Great

This is my first attempt at blogging, and I have to say, I’m excited to share my thoughts.  In March, Western River Expeditions and the Moab Adventure Center will start the 2010 Moab, Utah river rafting season.  In April, we will launch our first Grand Canyon trips.  Ever since I went on my first Colorado River expedition nearly 30 years ago, the Colorado and Green Rivers have become a part of who I am.

Many of the guests who come on our raft trips have the same experience.  These places speak to them and draw them back over and over again.  We have found, however, that just going to these places isn’t enough.  The guides that lead you down the river can make the entire experience richer and more meaningful.  To that end, we spend an inordinate amount of time interviewing, screening, and selecting new guides to join our stellar crew.

Western River Expeditions has nearly 60 guides who work in our Grand Canyon and Moab, Utah operations.  This year, we only had to replace 8 of them.  I’m happy to say, there isn’t much turnover.  Many of our guides are in their second decade of guiding and some are in their third.  This depth of experience is invaluable to the guest experience and the new guides are able to quickly learn the skills needed to also be the best guides in the industry.  After all, they are learning directly from the best.

In the future, I plan to blog a little about our guides.  Where do I start?  With Mark Pierce who has lead over 200 trips through Grand Canyon, or with Craig Lutke who also guides African safaris and who is the head ski patroller at Sundance Ski Resort.  How about one of our new guides,  Jordan Kueneman, who is an amazing bluegrass musician, with duel US and Brazilian citizenship and who spends time documenting endangered species in Brazil.  One of our new Moab Adventure Center staffers, Meegan Lineback, spends time each year volunteering as a dental assistant on missions to remote areas of South America.

One of the primary criteria we use for choosing employees is, “will they be interesting to talk to on a boat for an entire week?”  Admittedly, there is some self-interest involved here.  I want to be entertained when I spend three weeks with them in training.  The amazing thing is that, year in and year out, we find tremendous people.  Their resumes are impeccable and, in person, they are even better.

That’s it for my first blog entry.  I know you’ll find just what you’re looking for in a Utah, Idaho, or Grand Canyon rafting vacation with us.  Until next time.

Brian Merrill, CEO, Western River Expeditions

Brian Merrill

Brian started his river career in 1984 and thought it would be a good summer job while in college. Along the way, he met his wife Dena, who also worked as a guide, tried a different career for a while, but came back to the river. His two older children have worked as river guides and his youngest is waiting his turn. Brian now serves as President and CEO of Western and is grateful, every day, for the wonderful people with whom he gets to work.

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