With a degree in plant biology and five years of working trail crew in Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness behind him, Nick Grimes knew it was time to move on to a new career. He grew up along rivers and enjoyed rowing competitively in high school, so a transition into guiding seemed natural. In 1995, Nick showed up at the OARS Dories boathouse in Lewiston, ID. Currently, Nick spends half his boating season rowing dories in Grand Canyon and the other half rafting in Idaho.
How long have you worked for OARS and what do you enjoy most about the people you meet and work with on the river?
I started working for OARS in 1996. The thing I enjoy the most is the community that is created between all of us as we travel down wild rivers together.
What makes a dory unique from other boats?
Dories are unique by their ride, colors, shape and curve of the boats. The history is very important too. Martin Litton started with an idea that getting people out into wild places would also help protect these threatened areas, and the boats are the way to access remote places and in turn represent the importance of wildness and wild things. Each boat has been named for areas of environmental degradation and places that need a helping hand. Watching those boats navigate our wild rivers is a beautiful sight.
What is it about the Grand Canyon that you love and want to share most with your guests?
The Grand Canyon has a beauty that comes from its grandness, but the details and small scale beauty is just amazing. The sunlight and shadows on the canyon walls are enough to keep you coming back again and again.
You also spend a lot of time in Idaho. What should people know about the state more well-known for potatoes?
In central Idaho there are mountains of recreation stretching off in all directions. The Salmon River and its Middle Fork flow through the mountains of central ldaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area – the largest designated wilderness area in the lower 48 states. It’s just an amazing state of mountains, rivers and canyons.
Tell us about a memorable experience you had on a river trip.
The fire on the Middle Fork was a wild event to say the least. It was called the Red Bluff fire and it was started by a lightning strike back in July of 2007. By a combination of high winds, low humidity and no rain for over a month, it came back to life and blew up into a raging inferno on August 20th, the second day of our trip. We had returned from hiking Loon Creek to find the sky of the river canyon filled with rolling jet black smoke and fire down at the river level moving downstream towards us! Dinner was almost ready, but we knew it was time to pack up and get the heck out of that camp and move downstream. We packed the whole camp and kitchen within 20 minutes. People were in the boats as evening was approaching with laps full of pots, plates, and bowls of pasta linguine, trash bags full of pork tenderloin, fruit salad and appetizers. We traveled downstream to a safe zone where the kitchen and camp was set up with lots of safe and happy folks. It took all of us together to make that one happen.
What are some of your other hobbies outside of boating?
In the winter it is time to get out and ski. Fishing is something I really enjoy, but do not do enough!
What keeps you coming back season after season?
Boating, hiking, wilderness, people, community, wild weather, the critters and birds – all of it keeps me coming back.