When a Family Vacation Tradition Becomes Your Job
Guide Talk: Meet Charlie Cohn
Since he was four-years-old, OARS guide Charlie Cohn has spent his summers on the river. He grew up rafting everywhere from the Grand Canyon to Idaho’s Salmon River, but it was annual family trips on the Green River through the Gates of Lodore that became a tradition. So when the time came, it was a no-brainer for him to head to guide school and continue his summers rafting the rivers of Dinosaur National Monument.
Did you always want to be a river guide?
My family’s really big into rafting. Every year since I was four we had this group of friends that would put in for a permit on the Gates of Lodore. Through that, I grew up rafting. One summer I was like, “I’ll try working out there.”
You’ve spent a lot of time rafting the Green River’s Gates of Lodore. How does the nearby Yampa River differ?
Well, if you look at just the canyons between the Gates of Lodore and the Yampa, they’re both awesome. You can’t really say the Yampa’s a cooler canyon or more beautiful, but it’s this more wild river because it is undammed. The water level’s always different; you’re pretty much guaranteed to see a different rapid every time. It seems like Gates of Lodore is established in people’s minds as this family trip. You look forward to activity days when you get to one of the campsites early, and it’s all about the duckies and paddleboards, making paddleboat slides, water fights, and volleyball.
What’s makes these river canyons so unique?
I think the geology is pretty mind blowing. People always think the Grand Canyon is the end all be all geologic experience while rafting. But when they get to the Mitten Park Fault Line—it’s right at the confluence—the world just kind of turns upside down. You can see some crazier stuff than in the Grand Canyon right there.
Photo: Alex Komarnitsky
What’s something people might get to experience in Dinosaur National Monument?
I think a lot of people’s favorite experience is the Jones Hole Hike, where you go up Jones Hole Creek to “Butt Dam Falls.” You can pile a bunch of people in and dam it up. Then, people get underneath the falls and you let out this big flood on top of them. People love that hike.
What do you enjoy most about guiding?
I just get to go on vacation with people over and over again.
True. So where would you like to travel next for a “vacation?”
I want to go to Africa. I’ve been checking off a lot of countries—I’ve been to forty now— and never made it to that area.
Wow, what’s one of your most memorable adventures from all your travels?
In college, I convinced my teachers that I should go to Nepal for two weeks. Most of them were pretty stoked about it because it was a good opportunity. Then once I got to Nepal with my brother we got invited on this three-week river trip. He was going to school up in British Columbia and I was going to school in Colorado and we were like, “We’re already here, we can’t not go on this river trip.” So I told the school that I got dengue fever and stuck around and rafted in Nepal for a while—the Sun Kosi and Tamur. It worked out awesomely. I got all A’s, I think.
This article originally appeared in the OARS 2015 Adventures catalog. Order your FREE copy here.