Emerald LaFortune

Professional Outdoor Guides & Adventure Experts

Black-Eye Merle

Where did you grow up?

Moscow, Idaho

Where do you call home now?

Missoula, Montana

Year started at OARS?


What’s the best part of your job?

Waking up every morning in my favorite state, on a boat in a wilderness river canyon, surrounded by great people – especially when I’m not on coffee duty!

Tell us about your favorite rapid, hike or camp and what makes it special

There’s a rapid on the Main Salmon called Chittam (chittam is dried bark used as a laxative, which tells you something…). At higher water, Chittam has knocked me off my line more than any other rapid – and it’s a BIG WATER line when you’re off! It’s the last rapid above where the road rejoins the river after 70+ wilderness miles, and I like that feeling of being spit back into civilization.

Do you have a lucky charm or special river tradition?

In high school when I learned to row, a friend taught me a short song in Spanish about a shark. I used to sing it above all the rapids when I was nervous – and I still do sometimes. So if you hear, “tiburon, tiburon…”, know what’s below the upcoming horizon line is spicy!

What can you not live without on a trip?

Beyond the real bummers to leave behind (sleeping pad, sun shirt, shoes, your brain)… a notebook and good pen. Sometimes for writing letters, sometimes for figuring out trip logistics, sometimes for journaling, sometimes for pretending I can draw (note: I can’t).

Fun fact, special talent or favorite guiding memory

Come on a river trip in Idaho and I’ll tell you how I got the nickname Black Eye Merle!

During the off season I’m a freelance writer (including writing for OARS). Check out my work at www.emeraldlafortune.com.

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