Our Company > Responsible Travel

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"One of the things that impressed me the most was the stewardship of the canyon that all of the guides were a part of. They made sure all of us understood the fragile nature of the canyon and how to best take care of it for those who followed us. The fact that they really love the 'place where they work' impressed me. Keep up the good work and the awesome stewardship of the canyon."
Jeff Weber ~San Jose, CA
Cataract Canyon 6 Day High Water Trip

"Typically I do my own backpacking, boating, camping and fishing. More and more lately, I appreciate enlisting with trips like these that provide access to places that I don't have time or ability to scope out on my own (and don't have to do the cooking!). I also appreciate the "leave no trace" policy that is diligently adhered to on these organized trips. In this way it is possible to grant a larger number of people intimate access to wilderness areas with the smallest amount of impact. I am happy to participate in this kind of stewardship of our environment."
Mujiba Cabugos ~Santa Barbara, CA
Rogue River Wilderness Gourmet

What is Responsible Travel
O.A.R.S. Responsible Travel Policy
O.A.R.S. Responsible Travel History
O.A.R.S. Travel Partners
O.A.R.S. Conservation Partners
Regional Pass-Through Donations & Contributions
Walking the Talk—What We Do
•  Solar
•  Leave No Trace
•  Sustainable Printing
•  At Work in Our Community
•  O.A.R.S. Foundation
What You Can Do
Travelers Code of Conduct

What is Responsible Travel?

Responsible travel implements practices that are respectful of natural and social-cultural environments and contributes to local economic development. Responsible travel raises awareness about a traveler’s own impacts on the environment.

O.A.R.S. Responsible Travel Policy

O.A.R.S. guides and employees deeply respect and care for the wonderful places we visit. As stewards of more than 35 rivers and shorelines, our goal isn’t simply to be one of the most environmentally responsible tour operators in the world, but to continually raise the bar and challenge other companies to raise their standards as well. While our responsible travel policies and operator standards are a constant work in progress, our commitment to socially and environmentally-conscious travel has been a part of our foundation since the company's inception in 1969. We consistently implement the following responsible travel ideals and practices:

  • We believe in supporting the local communities in the regions to which we travel, and actively engage with and create programs to foster sustainable, authentic preservation of those communities.
  • We respect the natural environment, and to ensure minimal impact, we use responsible leadership and maintain small groups. We follow expertly designed on-the-ground practices.
  • We prepare travelers for each encounter with local cultures, plants, and animals, while teaching them environmentally– and culturally–sensitive ways of enjoying our travel experiences.
  • We avoid areas that are under-managed and over-visited.
  • Staff members personally encourage and actively support awareness, deeper appreciation, and preservation of our rivers and natural ecosystems. Our trips emphasize heightened attentiveness to human impact on the environment.
  • All staff members have access to programs that upgrade their ability to communicate effectively with our guests.
  • We contribute to the conservation of visited regions with voluntary donations, fundraising efforts and permit fees.
  • We provide competitive, local employment in all aspects of business operations and participate in recycling programs both on and off the water.
  • We work with local communities, businesses and individuals to develop sustainable tourism opportunities that help local economies while minimizing negative environmental and cultural impacts.
  • We utilize alternative energy sources such as solar power and bio-diesel along with fuel-efficient vehicles and support vessels whenever possible to reduce our carbon footprint.
  • We provide on-site employee housing in most destinations, sparing guides and staff from potentially lengthy, carbon-emitting commutes.

O.A.R.S. Responsible Travel History

The loss of Glen Canyon so profoundly affected George Wendt that he left a career as a junior high school educator to help share, preserve and protect wild places for future generations. All O.A.R.S. programs are nature-based, with the primary motivation for traveling to the areas being to experience the natural environment and culture.

  • 1969, Our whitewater rafting company is created to share wild places with others with the dream of preserving and protecting wild places for future generations
  • 1986, O.A.R.S. aids production of PBS documentary on Colorado Plateau issues entitled "Troubled Waters"
  • 1991, Environmentalist David Brower joins benefit trip in Cataract Canyon to increase awareness of Glen Canyon Dam
  • 1992, George Wendt represents America Outdoors Association, testifying before the Senate Subcommittee for river preservation
  • 2000, O.A.R.S. affiliate organization, Rivers Fiji, successfully negotiated with the government of Fiji to establish the Upper Navua Conservation Area
  • 2001, We receive international recognition from the World Tourism Organization for the Rivers Fiji top-rated ecotourism enterprise
  • 2004, O.A.R.S. hosts politicians Robert Kennedy Jr. and Christie Todd Whitman for an eco-debate on the Main Salmon in Idaho
  • 2006, We coordinate the on-river filming of MacGillivray Freeman's “Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk” for IMAX and IMAX 3-D worldwide, helping to raise awareness for the global water crisis
  • George Wendt’s passion for running rivers, and his unquenchable drive to share the rivers of the world with other adventurers, earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Adventure Travel Trade Association for his pioneering efforts in the realms of whitewater rafting, ecotourism, and adventure travel
  • We join with Leave No Trace (LNT), Center for Outdoor Ethics and commit to training guides company-wide in LNT practices
  • We are the first rafting company in the U.S. to offset all of our carbon emissions
  • 2007, O.A.R.S. purchases 613 tons of carbon offsets, which has the same global warming offset impact as keeping 100 average cars off the road for an entire year
  • 2008, We go 100% solar for our warehouse and main office operations in Angels Camp, California, and for our warehouse and office in Flagstaff, Arizona, for our Colorado River operations in the Grand Canyon
  • 2009, The O.A.R.S. Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, is established to provide the ethical, educational, and experiential foundation for inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards and outdoor enthusiasts
  • We join the fight against an East Bay Municipal Utility District plan to expand Pardee Reservoir–which would inundate some of the Mokelumne River–destroying a popular whitewater run and flooding some of the best riparian habitat left on the lower reaches of the river. O.A.R.S. donates a series of trips on the Mokelumne River raising nearly $10,000 to help fund the Foothill Conservancy and their efforts to support National Wild and Scenic River designation for the Mokelumne River
  • Our affiliate organization, Rivers Fiji, is recognized for the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards in the “Best for Conservation of Cultural Heritage” category


O.A.R.S. is routinely recognized by the National Park Service and various other land management agencies for the company’s commitment to responsible travel. With a nod to our carbon offsetting program, Sunset magazine added O.A.R.S. to their list of “Top 10 Earth-Friendly” outfitters and National Geographic Adventure recognized the company as “The Best River & Sea Outfitter on Earth” in 2008 and 2009 based on education, sustainability, quality of service, spirit of adventure and references.

In conjunction with our sister company, Rivers Fiji, we were the first outfitter to set up low-impact commercial whitewater rafting trips on the Upper Navua and 'Luva rivers in Fiji, and together we worked with native landholders to establish a conservation area that will preserve a segment of the Fijian highlands in perpetuity. In the fall of 2000, we signed the final papers for a 25-year lease of the land extending 200 meters on either side of the Upper Navua River to establish the Upper Navua Conservation Area in Fiji. The lease precludes logging, road building or mining in the fragile river corridor and contributes to the ecological preservation of the area and our long-term commitment to the integrity of the Upper Navua Gorge. All Rivers Fiji guides are native Fijians, hired locally with a stake in the long-term sustainability of the region.

On April 11, 2006, the Upper Navua Conservation Area became Fiji’s first officially designated Ramsar site.

Rivers Fiji has been recognized with the AON Fiji Tourism Excellence Award for Adventure (2006 & 2007) and Environment (2001, 2003, 2006 & 2007) and in 2009 the company was highly commended in the “Preservation of Cultural Heritage” category at the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards. Rivers Fiji was selected as one of the top 35 companies out of more than 2000 nominations worldwide.

Travel Partners Responsible Practices

We believe it is a fundamental part of responsible travel to work with local guides while at the same time bringing our wealth of experience to the table. Our like-minded partners in the U.S. and abroad realize they are accountable to O.A.R.S. high standards.

O.A.R.S. Conservation Partners

O.A.R.S. is a proud founding member of the Adventure Collection, an alliance of ten of the world’s finest travel companies, committed to responsible, sustainable tourism. We additionally work with, and actively support, the following organizations:

  • American Rivers
  • American Whitewater
  • Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
  • O.A.R.S. Foundation
  • Outdoor Foundation
  • Sustainable Travel International
  • The International Ecotourism Society

Regional Pass-Through Donations & Contributions

Each year O.A.R.S. contributes to regional conservation organizations around the globe via voluntary donations and annual fundraising events. In partnership with our guests, O.A.R.S. has contributed more than $3 million in donations and fees toward the preservation of the environment and to various conservation initiatives in our four decades in business. The following are a few of the organizations that have received our support:

  • Alaska Wilderness League
  • American River Conservancy
  • BC Rivers Alliance via BC Creek Protection Society
  • Foothill Conservancy
  • Friends of the River
  • FutaFriends
  • Grand Canyon Conservation Fund
  • Hells Canyon Preservation Council
  • Idaho Rivers United
  • International Galapagos Tour Operators Association
  • Tuolumne River Trust
  • Upper Navua Conservation Area
  • Utah Rivers Council
  • Waterkeeper Alliance
  • Yampa River Awareness Project

Walking the Talk—What We Do

  • Solar: The O.A.R.S. warehouse and main office in Angels Camp, California, and our Grand Canyon operations warehouse and office in Flagstaff, Arizona, run on 100% solar power. The two systems together generate enough electricity to keep 8 medium-sized houses supplied with electricity for a year.

  • Leave No Trace: O.A.R.S. is a proud partner of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. We share in, practice and support Leave No Trace skills and ethics and believe in the stewardship of America's public lands.

  • Sustainable Printing: In addition to purchasing recycled paper products and using printing companies that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), O.A.R.S. is committed to reducing the use of paper across our organization. In 2010, we converted to 90% email-only confirmations in our continued effort to reduce paper use in our office. We reduced our focus on direct mail marketing and downsized our annual catalog print run in favor of better paper with a higher percentage of post-consumer recycled content. We also introduced easy-to-navigate online versions of multiple O.A.R.S. catalogs.

  • At Work in Our Community: We believe in supporting the communities where we run our trips, whether through donations to local non-profit organizations, sourcing local goods and hiring local guides, attending community meetings, sponsoring and hosting educational and charitable events or through on-the-ground conservation work.

  • O.A.R.S. Foundation: The O.A.R.S. Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization created to provide the ethical, educational, and experiential foundation for inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards and outdoor enthusiasts. The O.A.R.S. Foundation offers multi-day field based education opportunities designed to provide participants a foundation for the exploration of all aspects of environmental, economic, and social sustainability as it relates to the individual, their communities and the world.

What You Can Do

  • Select adventure companies who practice responsible travel
  • Choose vacations that are inherently low carbon-emitting
  • Consider offsetting the carbon emissions you generate from traveling. This one environmental action would be a huge victory in the battle against global climate change

Travelers Code of Conduct

  • Respect native artifacts and leave them untouched
  • Respect wildlife
  • Respect cultural differences
  • Reduce waste and leave no trace
  • Respect the environment
  • Utilize biodegradable products in the wilderness
  • Support local vendors

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Company Info

O.A.R.S. is an author ized concessioner of Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon and Grand Te ton National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument.
Outside Travel Awards 'Best Outfitter' Runner Up National Geographic Adventure Magazine - Best River & Sea Outfitter on Earth As Featured On 50 Tours of a Lifetime - National Geographic Traveler Mindy Gleason, O.A.R.S. Reservations Manager Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist 2007-2013 (River Rafting) Best of the Bay Area Winner

For consecutive years, O.A.R.S. has been named the "Best River & Sea Outfitter on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure and one of the top two outfitters in the world by Outside Magazine in its annual Active Travel Awards recognition program. In multiple years, O.A.R.S.trips have been honored as "50 Tours of a Lifetime" by National Geographic Traveler and since 2007, Condé Nast Traveler has recognized Mindy Gleason, O.A.R.S. Reservation Manager and International Adventure Travel Consultant, as Condé Nast Traveler's standalone Top Travel Specialist in the River Rafting category.

Questions about trips or making reservations? Contact info@oars.com or call 800-346-6277 in the USA or Canada or 1-209-736-4677 if outside the USA or Canada.
O.A.R.S. Companies Inc.,
PO Box 67, Angels Camp, CA 95222