Michael P Ghiglieri, PHD

Professional River Guide


Where did you grow up?

Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Where do you call home now?

Flagstaff, Arizona

Year started at OARS?

1974 (Odyssey Explorations)

What’s the best part of your job?

There are so many competing “bests” that choosing only one would hinge on any given hour in Grand Canyon. But aside from wallowing in the privilege of being able to traverse our amazing Grand Canyon 167 times, the “best” would be the opportunity to expand our clients’ perspectives on the evolution of the geomorphology of the Canyon, the intricate interplay of ecology of the desert wildlife within it, and the tenuous and precarious future of this wildlife due to unending human greed in resource exploitation. Any one of our clients could transform into an effective—or even super-effective—advocate for protecting our natural heritage. It’s our opportunity as a guide to inform, interpret, and to foster this transformation.

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

My favorite rapid in Grand Canyon is Crystal. Aside from being the most lethal (though never for OARS), Crystal Rapid always demands of us a level of attention wherein no safety consideration can be ignored. Nor any slack in precision rowing. Thus it challenges and fosters in most of us guides an adrenaline surge of King Kong proportions. Crystal keeps us honest. It keeps us focused. And when our sweep boat bounces through its tail waves, we are truly “Alive below Crystal” (a very good feeling). Then, despite all the Gems ahead, it’s time for me, assuming I am the trip leader, to start worrying about finding someplace good to camp in the next 16 miles….

Do you have a lucky charm or special river tradition?

Paying primary attention to reality.

What can you not live without on a trip?

A life jacket.

Fun fact, special talent or favorite guiding memory

In my 42-year career, I’ve run more than 680 river trips on 40 different river runs, worked with at least 500 fellow guides (for maybe 12 companies in addition to OARS), and have taken more than 10,000 clients down one or another river on every major continent and some very large islands (like Papua New Guinea), and I am STILL capable of doing it. That amazes me. Almost as much as the fact that two of my three children—Cliff and Crystal—also work as professional wilderness guides.