When I first arrived in
Moab three years ago, my then-fiancee and I were planning
our upcoming wedding celebration that included our closest
family and friends, none of whom lived here and many of
whom had never visited. So we wanted to give them an overview
of the reasons we’d chosen to move to Moab, which
included the beauty of the Colorado River. Since we were
new to the area, we asked friends and co-workers, particularly
avid river rats, which company they recommended to organize
a trip down the river. Without exception, the name we kept
hearing was Canyon Voyages, owned and operated by Don and
Denise Oblak. Three years and several trips later, I realize
why they were everyone’s number one choice.
spent the day before our wedding with thirty companions
paddling down the winding river walled in by ochre cliffs
and spring green tamarisk. The excursion included four duckies,
which are two-person inflatable kayaks, and a pair of multi-person
rafts each rowed by a fabulous, friendly guide who talked
us through moderate rapids, invited us to jump in the refreshing
river and prepared a large sumptuous lunch on a warm sandy
beach halfway down the stretch. The views of sienna buttes,
herons and azure skies made us pleased we’d picked
this place as our new home and proud to share it and show
it off to our friends.
The trip was such a success that
when we finally docked on shore we were reluctant to end
the party. After our guides dropped us off at home, we popped
open some pre-wedding champagne and cold beer, lounged in
the grass shaking out the sand still clinging to our arms
and legs. We invited our delightful guides to join us and
much to our enjoyment, they did. How can you not have fun
on a trip when the people organizing it are having such
a good time too.
And our guides were not only spending
the summer working at a job they loved, but also for a company
they loved. Canyon Voyages has a stellar reputation among
tourists and employees alike, and that’s mostly due
to the wonderful personalities of Don and Denise. They run
the business with corporate efficiency while retaining all
the warmth and affability of a family-run operation.
Canyon Voyages came into existence
in 1991 just prior to the boom in eco-tourism in this area.
Don and Denise had friends in Moab, whom they would visit
often when on vacation from their corporate jobs in Arizona.
Once they decided to move here, it seemed a fairly clear
choice to open a river guiding and retail store because
they knew and loved the river so well.
They arrived in Moab Beverly Hillbilly-style;
all their belongings including two dogs and a bird precariously
piled on top of one bus and one van. Denise describes this
time as “our leap of faith” in quitting careers
with dependable salaries and benefits to start a business
that floated on the back of the Colorado and a great deal
boom in tourism did arrive in Moab shortly after Don and
Denise and it has kept them not only afloat, but thriving.
The building that originally housed Canyon Voyages had about
800 square feet of space and soon became too small to house
their expanding business. Once they had jumped on the opportunity
to acquire a Westwater permit, which allows them to run
trips along an excitingly treacherous section of rapids,
they needed to consolidate their organization and did so
by purchasing their current location, formerly a gasoline
station (whose only remnants are the exterior restrooms).
Don and Denise employ around twenty
people, including the river guides, kayak instructor, retail
staff and themselves. Despite the different skills everyone
has, the common traits they all share are friendliness and
professionalism. The staff knows the river running trade
well and there is no better place to go to inquire about
gear, plan rafting trips or learn how to maneuver kayaks.
Don and Denise avidly welcome everyone, from novices to
experts, from locals to international tourists.
Denise has even taken French lessons
to be able to greet a wider range of visitors and wish a
heartfelt bon voyage before a trip. Canyon Voyages has often
had a native German speaker on board for those who feel
more reassured by gute reise, expressing the same send-off
for a good trip. Regardless of what language is spoken,
the trips are always wonderful.
As for the variety of trips offered, there is something
for everyone, including visitors who want to do more than
just paddle. One and two day adventure trips include four-wheeling,
biking and hiking as well as the expected river trip. And
the backcountry land tours skip the river altogether. Of
course, the most popular trips Canyon Voyages offers are
the ones navigating the Colorado and Green Rivers.
Rentals and retail gear available in the beautiful storefront
also allow experienced paddlers to plan their own excursions.
And for the not-so experienced, Canyon Voyages offers ACA
certified kayak instruction so anyone can learn to “roll”
through this rock country. They are currently developing
kayak touring trips which even novices will be able to enjoy.
Another big draw to Canyon Voyages is the amazing array
of top-of-the-line gear and fashionable outdoor wear. The
bright airy store carries Columbia Sportswear, Chaco Sandals,
Woolrich and other well known outdoor brands. They offer
a large array of trendy, yet functional, styles such as
swimsuits, shorts, jackets and footwear in adult and kid
sizes. They also offer boating gear brands such as NRS,
Dagger and Lotus Designs for all river running equipment,
from life jackets to helmets to boats.
My experience with Canyon Voyages has come full-circle.
The other night, my husband and I were having dinner with
friends who were planning their upcoming nuptials much in
the same manner as we did. When they started mulling over
ideas for taking their friends on a river trip, we immediately
recommended Canyon Voyages and recounted our outstanding
experience. Not surprisingly, our friends response was,
“Oh yeah, someone else just recommended them too.”
Canyon Voyages is located
211 N. Main Street and can be reached at (435) 259-6007
or (800) 733-6007 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out their website at www.canyonvoyages.com