Jess Wallstrom

American River Manager
Where did you grow up?

Kernville, California

Where do you call home now?

Where the water and snow take me!

Year started at OARS?


What’s the best part of your job?

After working now for 15 years on the river, what comes to mind first is when I get to see true joy in those I share the river with. This past summer was one of those times when we had a family group of 20 on the Rogue River. The patriarch planned the trip with his adult children, who in turn each brought their spouses and children. The ages ranged from 8 to 81 and throughout the trip they talked about memories from when they (the adults) had gone down the Rouge with their parents 20 years earlier. The dad was not the most nimble and we helped him on every hike, he did not want to miss anything. The best part of the trip was when we hiked up to a waterslide. The family had all gone ahead, been sliding, and were almost done when dad finally made it to the top. Each kid and grandkid decided to slide one more time so dad/grandpa could see. The smile on dad’s face, for everyone, was a special moment and was worth all the hard work. That family has now passed on their love of the outdoors to their kids and 3 generations were able to enjoy it together.

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

Blacktail Canyon on the Grand Canyon is by far one of my favorite places on any river to spend time. It’s narrow, quiet, and has such interesting rocks that you can get up close to. Taking music up into the canyon during the night is even better. Then sitting back and listening to the music in this special place while looking up through the narrow canyon at the night sky is unforgettable. Truly a special place that I look forward to each time I raft the Grand Canyon.

Do you have a lucky charm or special river tradition?

On one river I have worked on the way to put in we always stop at this huge Sequoia tree. We each take a few minutes, walk around the big tree, place a hand in “the spot”, and ask for a safe trip down the river. Then the entire group attempts to circle the tree and touch hands, this is not always possible but in hugging the tree we take a little piece of nature with us. We then head to put in and the down river. It is a must stop no matter how small a group or how late we might be.

What can you not live without on a trip?

I always have my sarong with me as it is so nice to slip on at the end of the day, use as a towel, sunshade, or costume.

Fun fact, special talent or favorite guiding memory

When I’m not on the river I work with sled dogs! This was my 6th winter working as a guide/dog handler. I have worked with dogs in Michigan, Utah, and this past winter Alberta, Canada. I love training puppies, racing and just being around wagging tails all day long. I truly follow the water both summer and winter.

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