Our guides are the face of our company and take their responsibility for its reputation seriously. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of camaraderie and campfire storytelling. Warm, funny, and insta-friend material? Yes. Our guide culture is intentionally professional and safety and family-focused.
River Guide + Geology Sound Effect Maker
- Born: Oakland City, IN
- Lives: Montrose, CO
Guiding for NWRC for more than a decade now, Audrey has quite a reputation for being an incredible host, giving entertaining Geology talks complete with sound effects, and making safety fun and comfortable. She even won an award for her awesomeness as Idaho Guide of the Year in 2014!
Audrey hails from Indiana where her reputation there still stands around her academic exploits and track and field records. After earning her degree in geology from Depauw University, she headed west where she fell in love with the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and has called it homebase ever since.
Audrey brings a zest for the river—and life in general—that is undeniably appealing. She gets excited about getting others excited about the outdoors. Her warm energy makes her particularly good with getting people comfortable in situations they find new and potentially intimidating. She delights in being able to get camp set up perfectly to spec and dinner going before guests come off the river.
In the off hours Audrey loves (in no particular order) quilting wall art, trail running across beautiful landscapes, skiing low-angle freshies, and SUPing.
Words to live by: "Keep breathing.."
River Guide + Operations Manager
- Born: Stewartville, MN
- Lives: Hood River, OR
Michael started with NWRC as guide and now as operations manager, he brings the discipline and desire to ensure that NWRC is not just a company that sends people down the river. He's constantly working to make sure that the trips are run in the best possible way, that guests are well-informed about location and expectations, and that the rivers thrive for generations to come.
Raised in Stewartville, MN, Michael grew up running around the woods behind his house which fostered an enduring love for being outside. Although many of his first jobs were in the outdoors, it wasn’t until a canoe trip on the Rio Grande during college, where he was pursuing Landscape Architecture and Environmental Studies, that he realized he could adventure professionally.
While Michael is keeping operations in tip top shape behind the scenes, he’s also focused on seeing guests relax and unwind during their trips. River time is a time unto itself, a slow sweetness that Michael hopes everyone has the chance to experience.
Even though Michael sees a lot of his work as play, during his "not working time" he's outside boating or biking or running (and feeling particularly lucky when he can do all of that in a day). He also digs science and sci-fi, particularly when it comes to space and time travel, and cooking tasty food.
Words to live by: "We were put on this earth to fart around, don't let anyone else tell you otherwise." - Kurt Vonnegut
River Guide + Director of Kayak Enthusiasm
- Born: Port Angeles, WA
- Lives: Hood River, OR
Emily’s enthusiasm for whitewater, her co-workers, and introducing guests to new river experiences has only grown over the years. She’s guided nearly all the trips that NWRC runs.
Although Emily grew up in the very northwest corner of Washington she found her passion for whitewater on the Rogue River in Oregon’s southwest. She spent her childhood backpacking, skiing, and rafting with her family where she quickly developed her love for the outdoors and movement. She’s always enjoyed sports, especially those taking place in nature and water, and learned to kayak at age 12 with Sundance Kayak School. With a degree in Kinesiology from Western Washington University, Emily aspires to become a physical therapist.
Often referred to as a water monkey, which speaks to both her agility and playfulness on the river, Emily brings a lot of spirit to her trips. Her many years of going on long outdoor excursions with her family taught her how to be comfortable without the creature comforts so she’s great at making guests feel equally content with the simple pleasures of river life.
In her free time Emily likes to kayak, run, mountain bike, hike, ski (she used to be a competitive mogul skier in Canada), read, hide hairballs, play board games, and spend time with friends and family.
Words to live by: "Boof everything!!!!"
- Born: Bend, OR
- Lives: Seattle, WA
With years of experience boating intense rivers at high water levels (he’s been featured on the cover and calendar of American Whitewater), Brodie is proficient at solving tough logistical problems. His expertise on the water combined with his easy-going personality makes guests instantly feel comfortable, especially in unfamiliar situations or when using new gear. He’s also a pro at making people laugh, flipping pancakes and growing a distinguished mustache.
Brodie grew up near the majestic Rogue River where he discovered his passion for whitewater by doing all of the day stretches around Shady Cove, Oregon. Although he was almost a professional golfer, Brodie found the opportunities to meet new people, being part of an accomplished team of guides, and the joy of exploring little-known rivers more appealing.
Even in his free time Brodie is usually out on the water either running rapids or fishing. He also enjoys hitting the links for a quick 18 holes, eating copious amounts of ice cream, and hanging out with his dog Beans (who likes ice cream, too).
Words to live by: "Never buy a car you can't push"
Thomas Bauerschmitd Sweeney
- Born: Baltimore, MD
- Lives: Whitefish, MT
According to Thomas, the Illinois and the Middle Fork are two of the best overnight trips in the country, and arguably the world (we hafta agree) which makes him all the more proud to guide for NWRC where the focus is being safe and professional with an equal measure of fun. With ten seasons guiding rivers and heading into his third season with us, Thomas brings a lot of experience running challenging whitewater and managing on-river safety. He’s great with helping guests who aren't used to the outdoors have a good time on our trips. He’s also really good at making PILES of things (gear, boats, snow…).
Thomas started guiding in West Virginia and has spent most of his river career paddling and guiding class IV whitewater trips, including four seasons on the Arkansas in CO and one season on the White Salmon in WA. Although he loves rowing big gear boats, he’s most at home with a paddle in his hand.
Some of the things Thomas enjoys most about guiding are the first trip of the season, running trips with return guests, hitting high water, and going on new hiking adventures from camp. He’s also into early morning coffee, fresh powder days, boating with old friends, hiking with his dog, and binge watching Parks & Rec.
Words to live by: "Go big then go home!"
- Born: K.I. Sawyer AFB, Michigan
- Lives: Breckenridge, CO
Whether on a raft or in a kayak, as a well-rounded and experienced guide Courtney leads guests down the Rogue, Owyhee, Chetco, and Middle Fork of the Salmon Rivers. She’s as good at wrangling heavy objects over awkward terrain as she is wrangling in the guest kids for some good, clean (or wet) fun. Courtney also knows how to dutch oven with the best of them and is renowned for her fast and delicious culinary skills.
Hailing from Texas, Courtney grew up playing volleyball, earning female athlete of the year for Southeastern Louisiana University and player of the year from the sports writers association. She went on to play professionally in Switzerland and England. She credits her volleyball career to her development as an effective leader and teammate, traits critical to being an exceptional guide. Volleyball also prepared her for a guide’s rigorous schedule although she finds waking up at 6am to make coffee much more pleasant than waking up early to lift weights!
During the winter, Courtney works in Breckenridge, CO, as a Dog Sled Guide where she gets to train and tour with 150+ Siberian Huskies. When she’s not with those dogs, she’s out with her own skijoring, alpine, or cross-country skiing. When not in CO you might find her in the Grand Canyon or on a beach in Ecuador.
Words to live by: "Always look on the bright side of life" - Monty Python
- Born: Richmond, VA
- Lives: Breckenridge, CO
As Head Guide and Head Cook for our Rogue River trips, John brings keen observation and an eye for detail that has him on top of the things that need to get done and empathic to what people need. Although initially you might find him kind of quiet (because he’s taking the time to listen), in no time at all John’s light-hearted and sometimes goofy personality really starts to shine.
John began guiding while at Colorado College where he studied biology and biochemistry and was also a whitewater kayak instructor. In 2014 he did a solo 27-day kayak trip through the Grand Canyon, a personally transformative experience that gave him a new perspective on travelling slowly through natural environments.
John also enjoys cooking, especially experimenting with new flavors and sharing quality foods with others. When he’s acting as “food dude” or “head cook” on trips, he adds his personal touch to the menus, always finding a delicious way to work in his passion for veggies and quinoa.
When he’s not out guiding, John’s still on the water chasing rapids and sunsets. You might also find him traversing mountains on his bike or a pair skis. He enjoys creative exertion just as much as the physical as he’s engaged with writing, photography, and videography for his website johnnestler.com and other publications. Among lesser known feats, John can peel an egg one-handed while driving his car (but please don’t tell his mother) and solve a Rubik’s cube.
Words to live by: "Adventure is the philosophy. Insight is the goal.” – Doug Ammons
- Born: New Mexico
- Lives: Oregon
As Head Guide and Head Cook for our Owyhee and Chetco trips, Ellie has a knack for bringing together lots of different pieces of information to make a trip better in small but very important ways. She’s organized, observant and passionate about river conservation, a topic she often writes about on behalf of NWRC.
While Ellie’s parents actually got engaged in a canoe, she never rafted until she was lucky enough to get invited on a Grand Canyon trip at which point she fell hard and fast for the river life. Eventually she started an organization teaching students how to whitewater canoe and get certified as citizen scientists to monitor water quality, an effort that afforded her many opportunities to head out on river expeditions.
Calm and curious, Ellie’s really good at helping others try new things they didn’t think they could do. During the multi-day trips she guides, she has time to get to know people, build rapport and get them excited to step outside their comfort zone. She loves making people laugh either telling jokes or pulling out one of the many riddles stashed up her sleeves. Incidentally, and maybe not surprisingly, she’s freakishly good at jigsaw puzzles.
When Ellie’s not guiding on the Chetco or Owyhee or kayaking other rivers, it’s likely she’s traveling, skiing or down in Chile whitewater guiding.
Words to live by: "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good" – John Steinbeck, East of Eden
Kristen "Chuck" Bryson
River Guide + Master Chef
- Born: San Jose, CA
- Lives: Bend, OR
As one of our guides for the Rogue, Kristen or "Chuck" is a professional on the water and in the camp kitchen, proudly holding the title of "Most Pounds of Butter Used On a Commercial Rogue River Trip."
A California native, Chuck started her guiding career working day trips on the majestic Yellowstone river at the north entrance of the river’s namesake park. After spending a summer in the wilds of Montana, Chuck moved to pursue rivers of the west and learn about multi-day guiding on to the Rogue River. There she fell in love with rowing, long days on the river, and sleeping under clear starry skies.
With a degree in Planning, Public, Policy and Management from University of Oregon, Kristen is passionate about land conservation and related current events. She’s also into plant identification of the flora on the river and loves to share this knowledge with guests as way to enrich their experience.
In her free time, Kristen enjoys adventures on her bike or in the kitchen, where she can whip out a mean pie crust and a fancy mac n’ cheese, or in between the pages of a great book.
Words to live by: "In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught." – Baba Dioum
- Born: Lotus, CA
- Lives: Lotus, CA
As head guide of the Middle Fork of the Salmon, Nicko combines his in-depth knowledge accumulated from 10+ years guiding in the West with whitewater play to offer guests a fun learning experience on one of America’s truly great rivers. Nicko considers guiding on the Middle Fork a privilege and values the opportunities to build relationships with guests and coworkers while enjoying the outdoors.
Nicko grew up on California's South Fork of the American River and went on his first rafting trip at age six. After attending guide school just three days post high school graduation, Nicko has been teaching and learning about life on the water ever since.
His educational pursuits extend off the water as well. With a BS in Health Science Education from Chico State, Nicko is currently enrolled in a Teaching Credential Program at CSU Sacramento.
When he’s not guiding (or studying) you’ll find him chasing rapids around the world with his kayak, skiing the wilds around Lake Tahoe, or working on his old truck.
Words to live by: "Never let school interfere with your education." -Mark Twain
- Born: New York City, NY
- Lives: Asheville, NC
Daniel counts himself fortunate to have successfully blended his two professions as a Physical Therapist and River Guide into a single 22-year-long-and-going-strong career. His ability to remain calm and patient even in the most complicated of situations makes him a steady rock you can rely on. You can also count on him to spot the bears, an especially fun treat for guests young and old.
Daniel has had many transformative moments on the water, once helping to rescue a mother and son clinging to a downed tree on the Smith River, and off, when adopting his two children from Guatemala. He also finds meeting new, interesting guests and working with his fellow guides a significant source of the pleasure he finds in his work.
When Daniel isn’t out guiding, he’s likely either hanging with his family, off in the woods camping, or frequenting one of the many craft breweries in Asheville.
Words to live by: "You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus…" – Mark Twain
River Guide + Cultural Guide
- Born: Paro, Bhutan
- Lives: Thimphu, Bhutan
Chencho is an expert paddle guide and has a knack for bringing together a crew of relative strangers to move a raft like an expert team. Chencho’s in-depth knowledge of the river and Bhutan’s cultural history makes for a richly immersive experience on the water. He works very hard to ensure guests feel comfortable being on new rivers in a new country.
Chencho enjoys sharing the Bhutanese river experience with guests and fellow guides and appreciates the new things he learns from others and from nature itself. He is proud to have been involved with the award-winning Power of the River documentary, one of the biggest expeditions he’s helped organize.
During his free time, Chencho is often out driving his taxi, spending time with friends and family or trekking in the mountainous countryside.
Words to live by: "Have fun"
River Guide + Cultural Guide
- Born: Samdincha, Bhutan
- Lives: Thimphu, Bhutan
Thinley is an accomplished boater who brings over a decade of experience and river knowledge to each trip. He also has a vast knowledge of his homeland of Bhutan which makes for an enriching cultural experience for guests.
A consummate teammate, Thinley’s known for setting good lines and keeping an eye on everyone. He works hard to make sure all the trip details are taken care of as well as the guests and that everyone has a great time.
Although he’s naturally quite humble, Thinley is proud to have made a first descent on Kuri Chhu. When he’s not playing on big water or guiding trips, he enjoys driving big trucks on the adventurous Bhutanese roads, spending time with friends and family, and tracking down errant chickens (watch out for those trucks, chickens).
Words to live by: "Be calm"
- Born: Huntsville, UT
- Lives: Bozeman, MT
Mel guides on the Middle Fork of the Salmon and infuses her trips with an infectious joy for being and breathing in a pristine environment. She is a strong rower, a great people person, and with her background as an EMT with swift water training, she’s also big on safety.
Melissa grew up in Utah where she spent her childhood rafting (the rivers of Utah and Colorado) with her family, falling more in love with the sport with every multi-day trip they took.
Pursuing a degree in Exercise Science with a minor in Psychology from Montana State, Mel appreciates getting to spend most of her time on the water. She works hard to ease any anxiety guests might feel, and then delights in their joy as they go through their first big rapid.
In her free time Mel is often out skiing, mountain biking, traveling, fishing, or camping.
Words to live by: "Climb Mountains!"
- Born: Boston, MA
- Lives: Bend, OR
An esteemed river guide, Peter brings nearly four decades of knowledge and finesse to guiding our rowing schools and trips to Bhutan. His unique perspective on water and life keeps the nature in human nature and highlights the power of people and rivers to transform each other.
Peter has been a year-round guide on the Tuolumne River in California and the Bio Bio River Chile. In 1985, Peter was part of the first raft descent of the Futuleufú River, and he also led the televised first raft descent of the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River in British Columbia. He fell in love with the river the first time he got his hands on a pair of oars. And because he’s a great judge of speed and distance, and takes a sheep dog’s pleasure in being in groups, guiding was a natural fit.
Peter enjoys playing with gravity, writing, reading, and making music with friends. Naturally he spends a lot of time in the outdoors even when he’s not on the water, either mountain biking, skiing, and walking the woods, either solo or with friends and family.
Words to live by: "Beauty is worth trying for"
Security + Firewood Collector
- Born: Klickitat, WA
- Lives: Hood River, OR
Luna, who helped found NWRC in 2009, is basically the brains behind the whole operation. Although she is on probation for barking at skateboarders while we're on the phone, she deserves credit for never failing to remind us when it's getting close to 5 o'clock. She loves sticks and happily collects firewood as she runs along the river exploring every interesting thing she can find.
Word to live by: Ruff, ruff