Insider River Guide Knowledge

The stories your river guide doesn’t want you to know.

By Taylor Buchanan – River Manager and Raft Guide at Rogue Wilderness Adventures

1. There is not a rangefinder for the depth of the river on the end of your guides paddle.
One of the most frequently asked questions on the river is ‘How deep is the river?’. Being the ever charming, and over-creative river guide that he is, your raft guide might choose to forego the so-called ‘truth’ of the answer, and instead decide to pull out his handy dandy depth finder. He may choose to stick the tip of his paddle in the water, place the other end to his ear, tap the paddle, and after a second or two (for dramatic effect of course), exclaim “8 ft.!”. Don’t let this fool you! Your raft guide IS a genius, but they have not found a way to calculate the depth of the river my listening to the vibrations of their paddle. They are simply put- ‘full of it’. Smile, laugh, and give them a wink- that way they know they need to step up their game.

2. Evil Kenevil did not do a backflip off of that rock in the 70’s.
Needless to say, after a few months of doing the same stretch of river day in and day out in the blazing sun, your raft guide’s imagination starts to run wild. He may start to look at each rock and tree with intense scrutiny, imagining what they most closely resemble, or what stunt a famous daredevil could possibly do off of them. After they have this ‘too much sun on the brain’ inspired vision, they may try to convince others it actually happened, and see who bites. Just remember the old raft guide proverb: ‘How do you tell your raft guide is lying? His lips are moving.’

Rogue River Guide

3. There are no such things as right and left handed paddles.
They may even throw in an ‘the left are blue and yellow, and the right are yellow and blue’, just to see who can find the pattern and begin to help all the confused people around them.

Reality is, they are all exactly the same- except of course for the yellow and green ones for color blind people.

4. That guide was not Paddler of the Year for Paddle Magazine last year, nor was the other guide the model for the Coppertone Sunscreen when she was a kid.
This one is not necessarily to pull a fast one on you, but instead to put the ‘famous river guide’ in the hot seat. Just to see how clever they really are when under pressure. Chances are they were not told of their famous past before it was loudly repeated in front of them, and it is their job to make it seem very true. They blow it and give the secret away? They clean the portable toilet every night for the whole trip. Note: This one doesn’t work on the rivers near Los Angeles – they’ve all been in commercials themselves and don’t understand why THEY didn’t get a lifetime supply of Neutrogena when they were in the commercial.

5. The fabled ‘Pig Bear’.
Now this is one I really shouldn’t be telling you. I’m a bit afraid of the backlash from the guiding community on this one, but I believe you have a right to know, so here goes: There is no such thing as a Pig Bear. “Pig Bear?” You ask. “I’m really supposed to believe in an animal named Pig Bear?” Well, there really is such an animal as the ‘Dumbo Octopus’ and the ‘Pink Fairy Armadillo’ so is it really so far fetched to believe in such a thing as a Pig Bear? Your guide doesn’t think so, and being so well-versed in the art of creative storytelling, he MAY attempt to tell you all about it. He may even go as far as to dress up in a garbage bag in the dark of night and stomp around in the bushes making grunting noises. He may even insist you give him all your candy and toothpaste because the Pig Bear ‘has a sweet tooth during mating season’.  Don’t fall for it folks. In fact I have a way to flush out the truth… Jump up with your camp knife when the Pig Bear appears, give a good primal scream, and run at the ‘Pig Bear’ yelling ‘Time to catch us some breakfast!’. That ought to turn the Pig Bear right back into a human again.

So there you have it. I think there is one clear moral of the story- your river guide is a creative, charming, and genius individual who likes to ‘get creative with reality’ for the sake of entertainment. So my recommendation? Beat him at his own game. There’s no law that says you can’t give him a big hug at the end of the trip with a ‘highly contagious rash’ right?



Categories: Rogue River Blog

Packing for a Rafting Trip - What to Bring

Things to consider when packing for a rafting trip. Insiders advice, tips, and tricks.

Whether I am heading out for one night or twenty into a river wilderness canyon, there are some things I’ve learned to bring that tend to always come in handy when packing for a rafting trip. Some are already on your MRWA packing list, and some are ‘extracurricular’ items that I have found to be great to have over the years.

1. Good River Shoes
River Sandals and ShoesThe cheap slip on things and flip flops just don’t cut it when it comes to walking on slippery river rocks. They do just fine in the raft but provide little to no protection or support when walking on the side of the river.  My advice: sturdy sandals or shoes with a good tread. Chaco, Teva, and Keen get the job done for sandals, and Solomon makes a great pair of light shoes that dry fast and have great tread. If you don’t want to drop the extra dollars just for a few days, old tennis shoes work great. Note: Make sure you’re ready to toss them in the dumpster when you’re done-  river water and sand do more than just break them in.

2. Lotion
Sun, sand, and constant wet to dry to wet really do a number on your skin. Having some GOOD lotion handy in your overnight bag fixes the dry situation, soothes sunburned skin, and conveniently freshens up that river musk at the end of the day.

3. Extra Plastic Bag for Wet Clothes
I use a standard trash bag, but a large ziplock will do too. Wet clothes and dry clothes in one rafting bag strangely ALL become ‘moist’ clothes by the end of the day. If you put all your wet clothes in a plastic bag and seal it, it can prevent the ‘not so dry’ situation in your bag on night two. Note: Don’t forget to take the wet stuff out to dry when you’re at camp the next night. Talk about funky…

4. Emergen-C (or whatever you use to boost your immune system)
You’re going to sleep somewhere new, spend all day in the sun, sit in the sand, smell the flowers, high five a friend, and laugh- a lot. Your immune system is about to be challenged. Consider this and bring what you need to help it along.

5. Tape
Yep. Tape. Of course, not your standard ‘I work on paper in dry places’ scotch tape. I’m talking about something that will hold your shoe (or shorts) together when they take a turn for the worse. Tape that will stay on your body if you find the sharp part of that rock. Tape that can cover your husbands or kids mouth if four days is just too much. Just Kidding!  Duct tape, medical tape (cloth kind), and gorilla tape work great when packing for a rafting trip.

Tip: you don’t have to bring the whole roll! Wrap a portion of the roll around a round object you might already be bringing- a pen, hairbrush end, toothpaste tube, etc.

6. Camp ‘Slippers’
Your rafting shoes are wet, your hiking shoes are bulky and take forever to put on, the sand is cold in the morning. You want something to keep your little tootsies warm (and safe) at camp. I love the down-filled booties available at REI, some people like to bring their rubber rain boots and a good pair of socks (note: REALLY bulky in your bag). What you need is something warm and dry-preferably with a sole- for the sometimes chilly mornings on the river.

7. Small Ground Blanket
Half a yoga mat, an unstrapped crazy creek (double purpose!), small old blanket, or tarp. What we’re looking for here is something not too bulky that you can put on the ground for oh so many purposes. In front of a tent for a barrier between sandy shoes and the inside, a ground cover when you’re taking off your wet clothes and don’t want to put them in the dirt, a blanket to sit on if you want to wander to your own special spot, and a mat to stretch on (if you’re into that sort of thing). I would reserve this as an ‘I have a little extra room’ item. It’s not necessary, but often nice to have.

8. Sarong
Why bring a big bulky towel that collects sand like the Sahara? Sarongs are less than a quarter of the size and work as a towel, portable changing room, blanket to sit on, skirt, for man or women (we don’t judge), and a cool piece of headgear. I can’t even remember all the times one of these has come in handy.

9. Personal Mug/Cup and Mix-ins for Your Favorite Cocktail or Beverage
Packing for a Rafting TripDon’t worry- we will have plenty of cups available for you throughout the trip, but there is something nice about having your favorite mug warming your hands with a hot cup of coffee or cocoa in the morning. Likewise, we’ve found that having a nice cup with a cocktail or beverage of choice when you arrive at camp is fantastic as you sit and take in your beautiful surroundings. Guides will have ice, and ice is available at the office if you would like your own personal stash. Note: We will have a drink cooler available for everyone on the trip to store your beverages in, but please avoid glass- it is heavy and breakable. Other note: There is not a great liquor store near our office- we recommend purchasing your beverages BEFORE the day of the trip.

Other things I love to have along in my personal stash: Technu– there’s lots of naughty poison oak out there, I like to have my own for easy access. Rain coat -doubles as a guard against splashes on the raft on a chilly day. Beer/soda koozie, Ibuprofen, book/journal/cards, and my favorite warm hoodie/fuzzy for camp- Even in the heat of the summer, it’s cold in the morning. Head Lamp, not flashlight- If you’re holding a flashlight, you can’t use one of your hands to do anything else (very frustrating). A great, not too expensive headlamp is the Petzl TIKKA®- I have had many over the years, and they’ve never let me down (if only I wasn’t so good at losing them..).

A Few Tips for the Packing Process
When it comes time to actually pack, it’s sometimes hard to decide exactly what to bring. I like to lay everything out first on a large area like a bed. Once I have everything laid out, I make myself get rid of 3 clothing items- although I won’t be carrying my bag down the river, I do have to carry it to my tent and back. A great tip I learned along the way is to roll my clothes and pack like items into large ziplock bags- to save space and ensure dryness. Last but not least, it is extremely helpful to pack everything in a small soft duffel bag. If you’ve made it small enough, when you show up, you can just drop it into the rafting ‘dry’ bag and call it good.

Below I’ve copied the packing list provided on our website under ‘trip itineraries’.

Clothing List Recommended for All Trips

  • Swimsuit: May be worn as a first layer
  • Shorts: quick drying shorts can double as a swimsuit for men.
  • Hiking boots, water sport sandals (i.e. Chaco)*
  • Socks: Polypropylene or wool*
  • Shirts: long sleeved is best for sun protection*
  • Long underwear: Polypropylene, Smart wool, or Capilene
  • Sweater or jacket: Fleece or Wool
  • Baseball cap or visor (with strap) for sun protection*

Gear List

  • Small camp Pillow
  • Water bottle with strap*
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Sunglasses with Strap*
  • Bandana
  • Insect repellant*
  • Small towels and toiletries
  • Baseball cap or visor (with strap) for sun protection*
  • Medications. If you are in need of bringing a CPAP- please visit to purchase a battery pack.
  • Large zip lock bags for wet gear
  • Sunscreen*/ lip balm*
  • Moisturizer/Skin lotion*
  • Wet Wipes

Sometimes Required for Early Season Trips

  • Long underwear: Polypropylene, Smart wool, or Capilene
  • Sweater or jacket: Fleece or Wool
  • Wetsuit (Available from MRWA)

Optional Gear

  • Bike gloves to protect hands while paddling
  • Fishing equipment and license
  • Small zip lock bags for organizing gear
  • Disposable/ Waterproof camera*
  • Dramamine (if prone to car sickness)
  • Small day pack or fanny pack
  • Book/ Journal/ Notebook

Good luck with packing for a rafting trip and we hope to see you on the Rogue River!



Categories: Rogue River Blog

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