OARS Response to COVID-19

Enhanced Screening & Prevention with New Flexible Transfer Policies

Originally posted March 11, 2020 – updated April 1, 2020

As a past, present, or prospective guest with OARS, you’re a part of our family and you should know that the health and safety of our guests and staff is our top priority.

Recently, due to the uncertain nature of the spread of the coronavirus resulting in an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, travel restrictions, and shelter in place orders, many travelers are understandably concerned. For this reason, we STRONGLY advise all travelers to purchase a travel protection plan that will cover you in the event you or a family member become ill and cannot travel. However, it’s important to know most policies will not cover other disruptions to travel caused by the coronavirus, including canceled flights or airport closures.

Cancellation of OARS Domestic trips to be considered on a rolling basis 30 days prior to departure

In the primary interest of protecting the health and safety of our guests and employees, and to abide by federal, state and local directives regarding social distancing and staying close to home, we are considering cancellations of upcoming trips approximately 30 days prior to departure. In some cases, as the current situation continues to evolve, we may delay making a determination until 14 days prior to departure.  

Like many in the hospitality and tourism industry, our small family-owned business and employees are being hit hard by this. We know this is likely a difficult time for you, as well, and it’s our desire to do right by our valued guests.

While acknowledging that in most cases a full refund is among your options when OARS cancels a trip, we’re asking our guests to consider transferring trip payments to a hold account toward a future OARS trip, which will help our company and our employees weather this unprecedented storm. As an incentive to do so, we’re able to offer a 10% discount (up to $300 per person) on a future OARS domestic trip when you transfer your payment. 

OARS International trips

As a result of worldwide travel restrictions, we are working with our guests and affiliate operators to cancel or reschedule trips on a case by case basis. However, it’s important to note that OARS International trips are run in collaboration with OARS by affiliate operators and include local guides, transportation services, hotels, camps, yachts, etc. These are small local businesses that support resident communities, and we’re proud to consider them part of our team. When you reserve an international trip with OARS, we make non-refundable payments for entrance fees and contract services on your behalf months in advance, which is why final payments (typically due 90 – 130 days prior to departure) are generally non-refundable. In many cases, it will be difficult or impossible for us to get those payments back. Bottom line, we’ll do the absolute best we can under the circumstances, but refunds may simply not be possible.

When we’re allowed to get back to work

When we do return to running trips later this season, per our our enhanced screening protocols, we may (at our discretion) decline service to a guest and/or remove a staff member from the schedule under the following circumstances:

  • If a guest or guide has been in close contact with someone (within approximately 6 feet for any sustained period of time) of a person known to have COVID-19 within the 14 days prior to a scheduled trip
  • If a guest or staff member develops flu-like symptoms (a fever, cough, and shortness of breath) during the 14 days prior to a scheduled trip

Of course, most of these measures require self-identification so we’ll be asking all guests and staff to sign a declaration of health form until further notice. We will continue to update our protocols as the situation evolves and as more information becomes available.

  • Additionally, if a guide or guest develops flu-like symptoms during an OARS trip, per CDC guidelines, we will socially distance the individual(s) from the rest of the group and any community items, disinfect any suspected items or areas of contamination, encourage them to wear a surgical mask (to help prevent the spread of their illness), and consult local agencies about the possibility of an evacuation. If the individual requires caretaking, one designated guide will tend to the individual with appropriate personal protective equipment. That guide will also be socially distanced from the rest of the group for the remainder of the trip.

Our team is in touch with federal, state, and local agencies and monitoring the following resources, to help inform our decision making at this time:

We hope you’ll rest assured that our standard procedures have long featured vigilant adherence to best practices for sanitation, disinfection of communal surfaces, and availability of hand washing stations. In addition to convenient locations for two to three hand-wash stations at every camp, along with a heavy emphasis on their required use, we also bring a supply of hand sanitizer on every trip. Our certified food managers and handlers adhere to strict guidelines for food preparation and clean up. Vehicles, including small planes, are cleaned and sanitized between each use, and our rental gear (sleeping bags/pads, liners, pillows, and tents) is laundered between trips. Take confidence in knowing our operations teams are working extra hard to ensure we meet or exceed CDC guidelines on our trips as well as at our warehouse and office facilities.

As always, the safety of our guests and our staff is our primary concern. Please take necessary precautions to protect yourself before your trip and when traveling, and if you meet any of the criteria for our enhanced screening for COVID-19, please contact us immediately. If you are 60 or older, or if you have a chronic medical condition such as heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes, please feel free to give us a call. To provide for some additional flexibility during these uncertain times, we’ve modified our cancel/transfer policies (see links below) for many of our trips, which will allow you, under certain criteria, to transfer your trip payments to a future departure at significantly reduced fees.

All things considered, we remain optimistic about the 2020 season, which will be our 51st as a family-owned outfitter. We just need to get started a bit later than we initially planned.  We believe being out on the river or in the backcountry away from the crowds represents a welcome refuge from the hectic nature of our day-to-day lives, and our team of over 400 professional guides and staff look forward to helping you have the best experience of your life. It’s what we live for and it’s also our livelihood. How ‘bout a paddle high five for that?

Thanks in advance for your understanding, patience and support,

Steve Markle
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
The OARS Family of Companies

Latest Cancellation/Transfer Policies

COVID-19 Cancel/Transfer Policy for Multi-Day Domestic Trips (Not including Grand Canyon River Trips, JW Powell Retrace, Middle Fork Salmon River, Salmon River Combo Trips, and Yosemite Hiker)

COVID-19 Cancel/Transfer Policy for Grand Canyon River Trips

COVID-19 Cancel/Transfer Policy for Middle Fork Salmon, Salmon River Combo Trips, and Yosemite Hiker

COVID-19 Cancel/Transfer Policy for JW Powell Retrace Trips

COVID-19 Cancel/Transfer Policy for One-Day Trips on the South Fork American

COVID-19 Cancel/Transfer Policy for One-Day Trips on the Tuolumne

COVID-19 Cancel/Transfer Policy for One-Day Trips (excluding 1-Day South Fork American and Tuolumne) and Two-Day Trips on the American

COVID-19 Cancel/Transfer Policy for Alaska and International Trips (Varies by trip, please call 800-346-6277 to speak with an adventure consultant)


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