A Thank You Note From Your River Guide

3 Min. Read
An OARS raft goes through a rapid on the Lower Salmon River
Splashing through rapids on the Lower Salmon River | Photo by Rob Aseltine

Dear Rafter,

I’d like to say thank you for a few things. You see, you’re the reason I keep coming back. It’s getting to show you the wilderness, and seeing how you take it all in, that gives meaning to the hours I spend rowing downstream.

Thank you for sleeping under the stars and telling me all about it in the morning. I know you were nervous about the weather and the bugs, but you decided to sleep out anyway. Maybe you haven’t slept under the stars since you were a kid. Maybe you never have at all. But you braved the vastness of the night sky, the cool kiss of a summer breeze on your face. You watched the shooting stars. You woke up in the darkest part of the night and gasped at the mighty brightness of the Milky Way

A tent under the stars during an OARS wilderness whitewater rafting trip.
The beauty of the night sky on an OARS Stillwater Hiker trip | Photo by Mike Walton

Thank you for making me smile when you splashed through that giant wave in your inflatable kayak and came out the other side laughing. You were a little scared at the rapid scout, but you decided to try it anyway. I watched you paddle through, my heart clenching and my hands tightening on my oars, ready to come rescue you if you fell out. But you went big and clean, and it made me laugh and whoop in elation along with you. 

Thank you for sharing your stories, for telling me all about the places you’ve been and the things you’ve seen. I love hearing about your adventures, and the lessons you’ve learned in your life. When it was windy and hot, you captivated me with a story and gave me a new perspective.

A rainy scene at camp during a Grand Canyon rafting trip with OARS
Rain coming down during a dory trip through Grand Canyon | Photo by Dylan Silver

Thank you for braving the storm with us. The wind picked up, the rain poured down. But you never complained, never said you were cold. You worked hard to help unload the boats and get camp set up in the rain. You huddled and laughed with us under the rain tarp and brought a card deck out for the kids. You reminded me to put my rain jacket on, just when I needed it. 

Thank you for choosing to spend your time in the wilderness. You could’ve gone anywhere, slept on a fancy bed instead of a sleeping pad. You chose to come here, to a place where the canyon wrens sing and the river chuckles along day and night. You appreciated the value of a wild place and the character it brings out in people. 

Floating through Desolation Canyon on a standup paddle board, inflatable kayak and raft
All manner of oars- and paddle-powered craft in Desolation Canyon | Photo by Cindi Stephan

Thank you for writing a poem about the river and being brave enough to read it to us all on the last day of the trip. You were out here, living the river life just like us. You woke up to the morning sun. You swam, you kayaked, you laid on the raft and floated, staring up at the sky. You hiked, ate gorp and cared to learn about the culture, history and ecology of these special places we call home.

You were out here long enough to understand the essence of the river life. We don’t know how far we’re going, we don’t know the time. We simply know the colors of the sunrise, and all the ways to make each other laugh. We know how to be here, present in the canyon. I’m so happy that you connected to this lifestyle. I wouldn’t be here without you.


Your River Guide


Mia Clyatt

Mia Clyatt is a professional river guide, ski patroller and an advocate for wilderness. She loves good food, good company, and open ranges.

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