A Letter from Tyler — 55 Years of Tinkering

OARS President Tyler Wendt waves from a raft.
Tyler and his family on the Green River through the Gates of Lodore, 2023

Tyler Wendt here, president of this ambitious enterprise that OARS, aka the Outdoor Adventure River Specialists, represents.  My job is to oversee and support a cohort of “tinkerers” and trip designers, endlessly seeking out ways to make the West’s best river expeditions even better. 

I’ve been on the road this past week, visiting our warehouse in Moab, Utah for a pre-season staff training, then on to Marble Canyon over the weekend for the impressive Guides Training Seminar, put on by the incredibly smart people at the non-profit Grand Canyon River Guides, and finally to Flagstaff, Arizona and another staff training.  We’re launching our first Grand Canyon Dory trip of the season this week, and the crew pack-up meeting was emblematic of the tinkering – describing refurbished satellite phones and updated emergency communication protocols, new sleeping pads, fresh paint on our fleet of dories, the best-looking boats on the water.

We have embarked on the 55th year in the business of outfitting river expeditions, with OARS guides on the waters of Utah’s San Juan as we speak, and there was even an Easter Sunday run through the spring green gorge of California’s South Fork of the American River.  The “off-season” goes by quickly at OARS, as we wrapped up 2023 in late November, and then kept ourselves busy over the intervening months with season debriefs and implementing new tools for our office staff.  Now we’re back at the oars again and very excited for all that 2024 will bring.  There is snowpack in abundance across the headwaters of our river drainages, waiting to melt and ramp up our excitement levels with “high-water” action.

Photos on the wall at the OARS Grand Canyon Dories headquarters.
Photos on the wall at the OARS Grand Canyon Dories headquarters. | Photo: Dylan Silver

I ran into the legendary Bruce Helin at the Guides Training Seminar this past Sunday, one of the very first OARS guides and perhaps the original tinkerer.  Bruce, to the best of my understanding, was the mastermind behind the design and use of aluminum frames mounted on oar rafts, a technological innovation that revolutionized the art of rowing rafts through whitewater in the early 1970s.  Many of those first frames are still in use across our company and the world to this very day. 

Bruce and the host of brilliant people who have brought their talents to OARS over the subsequent five and a half decades epitomize our company ethic as an ongoing work-in-progress.  The job is never quite done, and ever-evolving to incorporate the latest equipment and efficiencies.  It is an incredible honor and privilege to do what we do, outfitting the greatest adventures on earth, bearing witness to the power of free-flowing rivers and the West’s wide-open spaces.  No matter if this year brings you to your first OARS trip or your fifteenth, you should come check out what we’ve been up to.

For the rivers,

Tyler Wendt

President, OARS

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