Business Happenings - April 2002
the shoulder season for river runners
The Lower the Water, the Better
by Carrie Mossien
adventures Myke Hughes
recommends a one-day Westwater run to kick off the rafting
season before permits are required May 1. Thats the
best April has to offer, he says, but is certainly not all.
People are getting into packages,
Myke said of visitors who arrive and want to do it all.
As an outfitter, we can put those things together.
Adrift Adventures holds the distinction of being Moabs
oldest originally-owned river company, setting up in Moab
23 years ago with six boats and a permit to float
Cataract Canyon. We started in an old warehouse where
Rim Cyclery is now, he said. That was when the
oil industry was going real strong and we were paying $2,000
a month to be there.
worthwhile investment in the long run. Just a few years later
real estate prices plummeted and Myke picked up an old used
car lot at 378 N. Main cheap, and landed the bread
and butter of river companies - a permit for The Daily.
We also got a permit for Desolation Canyon about the
same time, he said. Then Westwater. At the time
all our boats were in a storage unit.
Adrift Adventures now has boats by the
trailer loads, four Suburbans used for jeep tours with one
of the areas most knowledgable tour guides, Eric Bjornstad,
and jet boat interpretive tours below Dead Horse point with
another master guide, John Holland. The jet boat tours are
designed as geological and archeological treks.
Our jet boat has an interesting
history of its own, Myke said. We like to tell
people it has spent as much time underwater as on top of it.
Not to worry them, though. The boat was
under water above the town of Green river for eight or nine
years before Adrift acquired it. Its previous owner inadvertedly
anchored it there and left it. Myke and his crew dredged it
out and rebuilt it. It holds 16 people who stop for short
walks through petrified forests and other unique areas.
jeep tours are no less unique. Author of several guide books,
Eric is considered the most knowledgable guide in Canyon Country.
People come back just in awe of his knowledge,
Although there are no rentals at Adrift, the company offers
several jeep/raft combination packages. Part of the unadvertised
benefits of working with Adrift, and all of the river companies,
according to Myke, is the cooperation and reciprocation of
business between tour companies, hotels and other tourist
based businesses in town.
I have a great sense of appreciation
for the hotels, the campgrounds and other river companies,
he says. Everyone has their niche and theres so
much business we refer people to each other. Its a great
situation for the community to be in.
Even this year, when Myke said the tourist
economy may suffer due to an expected drop in foreign visitation.
Most rafters do all right, no matter
what the economy does, he said. This year there
will be more family vacations; kids in the station wagon looking
for a National Park. The domestic bookings will pick up the
slack of the downturn in International visitors. At
least thats what Adrift Adventures bookings are
looking like now.
And the local guides are gearing up. Adrift
has a training program that requires river guides to work
on the daily for a full year before doing multi-day trips.
Returning guides, after three years, are offered a spot on
an annual International tour - if those guides stay on until
the last day of the season.
Its an incentive and its
good for us and we think for the guides, Myke said.
For us, when spring comes the wheel just starts right
up again and the experienced guides know just what to do.
For them its an education in different ways of running
rivers, an opportunity to see Third World countries and other
opportunities for hiking or surfing in foreign places.
Past trips have included Costa Rica, Ecuador,
Southern Mexico, and this year, Nepal.
As is probably true with other river company owners, Myke
rarely gets out on the local trips anymore. He put in his
five days a week during the early years. He always does the
International tours, however.
Adrift employs about 30 guides in the peak season, and at
one point up to 50, Myke said. He notes that bigger
is not always better.
Now Id rather have fewer trips
and sellout days, he said.
And being an old river company, Adrift
has its share of return clients: Wilderness Medical students;
the Ambassadairs flying club, private school groups, medical
representatives considering relocation to Moab, NFL players,
and for 10 years the International Olympic Committee. Former
49ers quarterback Steve Youngs Forever Young Foundation
also does annual trips with Adrift Adventures.
We have an open door policy to the
Big Brothers and Big Sisters in Salt Lake City, and children
with diabilities. We try to give back to the community,
Locally Adrift supports several community
non-profit organizations. It also has a conservation program
where funds are donated regularly to a dozen environmental
groups.One year an Adrift Adventure was the wish of a terminally
ill cancer patient who was chosen by the Make A Wish Foundation
to receive her special wish. Adrift worked with the Foundation
and granted the wish. Unbeknowngst to Myke at the time, the
recipient was a relative of Moabs own Betty Stanton.
The river trip was part of a family reunion.
Myke said Adrift Adventures offers specials on full-day Westwater
Canyon trips for local customers during this, the shoulder
The lower the water, the better,
on Westwater, he says. And April is the ideal month for it.
To make reservations for this or to inquire about other trips
and packages call Adrift Adventures at 435-259-8594; or if
calling from out of town call 800-874-4483. Full schedules
and brochures can be found on Adrifts website at adrift.net.