An Open Letter on River Rafting Safety

Dear prospective guest, 

If you're considering taking a Triad River Tours trip, you are at a fundamental crux in the point which you can decide to engage in this adventure or not.  This company exists to allow those who wouldn't otherwise go, to go freely and with confidence.  Please take a moment to read what I have to say about whitewater classification and danger.  This is a topic that means a great deal to me, as it should to you. 

I grew up in Idaho, and there are two things we have there; potatoes and whitewater.  Idaho has more runnable whitewater than any other state, it also has the longest river contained in one state (Salmon River), the deepest river gorge in N. America (Hells Canyon) and numerous whitewater runs that have yet to be attained.  I learned a great deal growing up in Orofino, Idaho, near the Lochsa and Selway rivers, two of the most daring whitewater rivers out there.  I learned to respect these rivers, and I learned that preparation, skill, and caution, is how you deal with their danger.  

When I was a child my father was a forester, and worked in the backcountry.  We would spend our summers in the mountains, on the North Fork of the Clearwater River, and it's tributaries.  On the North Fork there are several creeks which are steep and difficult to wade or boat through.  I learned at a very young age to have a great deal of respect for the power of these creeks.  Even a creek more narrow than your living room has the power to defeat the energy of the strongest human, in a matter of minutes.  This is why my dedication to this craft has blossomed to where it is now.  I knew from very early on in my life, that I never wanted to watch someone get hurt on a river.  Today as a business owner, it remains paramount to my goals in life.

Since taking my first commercial training trip in 1994 I have guided trips across the country, and I have yet to see a serious accident from one of my boats.  I'm not saying that it can't happen, I'm stating my opinion on the matter.  My view is simply this; great preparation, and controlled variables, eliminate risk.  Taking too many risks is the hallmark of unskilled and unprepared guides.  Guides who care more about themselves than they do about the people in their boat.  This is something that we at Triad simply do not tolerate.  You have my word that every single employee of my company will be held to the highest standards for safety and preparation.  They are interviewed with ferocity, and collected when they have enough experience on far more difficult rivers.  I do not hire untrained and unskilled guides to run whitewater trips; I simply do not do it.  I would rather watch my company struggle to get by with one or two guides, than see people go down the river without feeling completely confident.  

All of my lead guides are required to have worked in other states.  That's to imply that Washington rivers offer a limited view of safety and swiftwater preparation.  I prefer to see guides come from reputable companies, and spend several months with me before I put them on a trip.  As I write this letter (4/13/2013) my lead guides are training high in the mountains, practicing their recovery drills, their evacuation procedures, and gear testing.  We run our boats far above the legal requirements for safety equipment, and all of our equipment is replaced far prior to it needing to be.  My guides spend time in swiftwater rescue training schools both in Washington and Idaho, and they run multi-day expedition training trips with the best in the industry.  It may cost us more money, but this business is not simply about the bottom line.  When you see the price for a Triad trip, and you see it sitting a little higher than our competitors, I want you to know that it is the lowest price we can achieve successfully while operating to the standards that I demand.  

I want to express that your safety is our primary concern, and like I stated before, it is our concrete ethical stance that if we cannot control the majority of variables on a river trip, we will simply move that trip to another river, or we will cancel the trip.  That is my promise to you.  I will never put you or your family in a position which I would not put my own family in.  I believe that this altruistic stance will allow more people to love the river, and not fear it. 

If you want a more refined expectation of what a river trip can be through your own personal experienced with the outdoors, then I highly encourage you to take a trip with us and see how we do things.  It is my goal to impress you.  Please come on a trip with us with a scrutinizing eye, and I guarantee you will walk away satisfied with the effort my company put in to ensuring you had a safe and pleasant trip down the river.  I give you my word that I will work tirelessly to ensure that happens on every single Triad trip.  

Thank you for taking the time, 

Luke E. Baugh