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Meet Our Guides

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.

Audrey Gehlhausen

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..”

Michael Hughes

River Guide + Operations Manager
  • 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

Courtney Sweeney

Office Manager + River Guide

Though these days she’s mostly handling the behind-the-scenes logistics, answering guests’ questions, managing our Idaho warehouse, and crafting menus, our office manager extraordinaire Courtney brings over a decade of summers guiding full-time. She started in Colorado in 2011 and spent the last five years guiding for NWRC. Her river experience makes her an exceptional office manager because she knows intimately the ins and outs of running great trips—she’s guided on all the rivers we run—and what the staff need to thrive. When her schedule allows, you might find her leading trips and keeping those guiding skills sharp.

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 at the university level while in England and professionally in Switzerland. She credits her volleyball career to her development as an effective leader and teammate, traits critical to being an exceptional guide and overseeing so many of our operations.

Besides flexing her super organizational skills across many aspects of the company, Courtney enjoys talking with repeat guests she’s met on previous trips while as their guide, successfully running a hard rapid in a paddle boat then celebrating with her crew, and chasing the perfect dutch oven lasagna recipe. Sleeping under the stars on a clear night, dinner parties with friends, and winning a game of backgammon are also tops on her fun list.

Like most folks who work in the outdoor industry, Courtney spends a lot of her personal time being active in nature whether it’s rafting, SUPing, or on walks with her husband Thomas (who guides for us as well) and their beloved retired sled dog Tyra.

Words to live by: “Always look on the bright side of life” – Monty Python

Cody Terrell

River Guide
  • Born: Durham, NC
  • Lives: Clemson, SC

One of our seasoned guides, Cody takes pride in doing the best guide job he can and pitches in with all camp aspects. He brings a lot of river experience in a variety of settings, is adept at reading the water, and—as cheesy as it sounds—really good at going with the flow both on the water and off.

Though he’s paddled many rivers and especially loves the Rogue and Middle Fork of the Salmon, Cody will alway consider the Chattooga his home river. It was there, more than a decade ago, where he started kayaking with a close friend and later getting his first raft guiding job in 2013.

With a desire to lead multi-day river trips, Cody found his way out west to Oregon, Idaho, and eventually to NWRC. His strong work ethic, dependability, and commitment to do things the right way made him a natural fit for the NWRC team.

His best days on the river include times when he feels a genuine connection with a fellow guide or guest and when he gets to run a hard section of whitewater because the challenge is at least half the fun. He relishes the opportunity to learn and share the history of an area as well as little moments in nature that bring him into full presence like when he recognizes a bird or acknowledges the scenery.

In the future, Cody plans to continue his post-secondary education with a bachelors in nursing. In the meantime, he’s taking full advantage of getting to work and play in the outdoors. When he’s ready to wind-down, he’s into chilling with TV and movies (he’s a secret fan of rom-coms) and historical fiction.

Words to live by: The only thing better than sliced bread is fresh sliced bread

Brodie Sullivan

River Guide + Rowing Guru
  • Born: Bend, OR
  • Lives: Hood River, OR

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”

Asa Emmons

River Guide
  • Born: Pensacola, FL
  • Lives: Grants Pass, OR

Asa is one of our rowing school instructors and head river guides bringing more than 10 years in outdoor education. He loves getting to share unique wilderness and water experiences with people that wouldn’t otherwise get out there.

Easy going yet hard working, Asa is a friend to all and a super teammate to his fellow guides with his level of organization and attention to detail. Such care for others and the planet was evident in how he’s devised a system to transform two to four 5-gallon buckets of trip food scraps each week into a thriving compost pile.

Asa feels most at home surrounded by smiles, sunshine, and Wild and Scenic rivers. He also enjoys hanging with his dog Nala, boating new rivers, climbing whatever rocks are nearby, and perfecting the art of composting.

Words to live by: Hail yourself

Katie Blanchard

River Guide
  • Born: England (sadly no British accent)
  • Lives: Clemson, SC

Katie brings many years of experience as a river guide and trip leader. She grew up rafting, canoeing and camping with her family throughout the east coast and near Jackson Hole and she’s worked on multiple wild and scenic rivers. In fact, her goal is to try every wild and scenic river throughout her lifetime!

With her sunny disposition, Katie’s great at inspiring others to get out and try rafting and she loves watching guests grow in the experience over the course of a river trip. She’s particularly into rapids and swift water and is always up for an interpretive talk about rivers and fish.

When she’s not guiding, Katie is still often out on the river or at least talking about them. She’s also into chillaxing with a book, her cat, or a pair of knitting needles.

Words to live by: “Do what makes you happy! And, you never regret a day on the river.”

Thomas Sweeney

River Guide
  • Born: Baltimore, MD
  • Lives: Washington DC

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!”

Daniel Stillman

River Guide
  • 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

Claire Hintz

River Guide
  • Born: Lewiston, ID
  • Lives: Bloomburg, PA

Like most professional outdoor guides, Claire was born with a love for being in nature which they’ve fostered throughout their life. In college, they were a trip leader for outdoors programs including canoeing, backpacking, climbing, and caving. Later they were a day guide on the Colorado River outside of Moab as well as a high ropes course facilitator.

Now as one of our Rogue River guides, Claire helps our guests discover, rediscover, and live their own passions for the outdoors. They serve as an empathetic leader promoting community and communication, developing friendships with guests that extend beyond the trip and committed to mitigating bigotry while increasing visibility of queer professionals in the outdoors.

With a B.A. from Hollins University in International Studies and English, Claire is working towards a career as an educator, guiding professionally on more rivers, and learning more about the history of the rivers they work on.

Claire has a wide range of interests and talents including rock climbing, voracious reading, catching up on episodes of the Great British Baking Show (btw, they’re a great cook), and playing the oboe.

Words to live by: I usually choose to express how I’m feeling with sound effects

Emilie Lederer

River Guide
  • Born: Denver, CO
  • Lives: Denver, CO

Denver native Emilie fell in love with rafting by chance through a nonprofit she worked for on the Arkansas River. After inviting her to their guide school, she went from having rafted once to absolutely falling in love with the water in the span of 10 days. This openness to new experiences and love of learning is something she continues to carry in her job and in her life.

Besides her exceptional guiding skills, Emilie is a proud member of a strong Rogue River Food Dude team and makes a mean French toast! She loves watching how others come alive when she shares special and beautiful outdoor places. She works hard both as a river guide and as an instructor for an adventure youth program to make the outdoors not only accessible to all, but something that everyone can feel shared comfort and ownership in.

Emilie counts being hired as a guide for NWRC as a proud moment along with her first clean run through the mid-chute of Rainey falls on the Rogue which demonstrated all she’d been working towards as a competent multi-day river guide.

Exuding quiet positivity and resourcefulness, Emilie loves nerding out on outdoor gear, knows creative ways to pack it all into a Subi Forester, and can do a decent job of repairing said gear, too. When she isn’t being a gearhead, you’ll find her cooking, baking pies, playing Settlers of Catan, inflatable kayaking, or simply soaking up the sunshine.

Tate Tomlinson

River Guide + Stoke Manager
  • Born: Brussels, Belgium
  • Lives: Traveling all over the World, or Utah

Tate’s river journey began on her ninth birthday through the Gates of Ladore on the Green River. With a grandpa who’d started rafting 40 years prior and family river trips every summer throughout her youth, it was inevitable she’d catch the bug for whitewater. However, it wasn’t until she did a self-supported paddle boarding trip down Labrinth Canyon when she was 18 that she truly felt the freedom and independence that rivers provide. That experience taught her how she can be comfortable in uncomfortable situations which is what she loves to show guests on the river. It was also while on that trip when she knew she wanted to spend as much time outside, specifically on rivers, as possible.

Her background coaching youth sports has proved foundational for guiding. Through coaching she learned how to be observant in groups and find ways to cheer people on while helping them grow. She’s also good at making people feel valued and important no matter the situation.

After high school, Tate spent six months at Alpadia Language School in Freiburg, Germany studying German. She’s currently on break from pursuing a degree in Sustainable Travel and Tourism and spends the off season backcountry skiing and traveling in her van.

Tate prides herself in creating friendships with her fellow guides, with guests, and with other boaters while recreating that have continued off the river. Community is important to her which has her excited to facilitate group activities like talent shows, campfire music, and fashion shows. She works hard to ensure our guests become comfortable and self-sufficient in nature, while at the same time keeping things fun and yummy like putting cookies out for lunch before the rest of the food.

When she’s not guiding, you can usually find Tate deep in the snow, scrambling up rock faces, or hunting down swimming holes. A music buff whose taste spans from Chris Stapleton to Harry Styles, she’s often got a guitar in her hands learning a new song. She’s also a die-hard fan of fantasy books and freely admits her love of rom-coms, especially the cheesy Netflix ones.

Words to live by: Be Kind

Conor Bell

River Guide
  • Born: Tampa, FL
  • Lives: Hood River, OR

As one of our newer guides, Conor helps with the class IV schools, spring season on the Illinois and Owyhee, and summer season on the Middle Fork.

Conor holds a Masters in Outdoor Adventure and Expedition Leadership and began guiding in 2014 working on Lodore and Yampa in Dinosaur National Monument and Cataract Canyon on the Colorado in Canyonlands National Park. By his account, he’d never been on the river as a youth. His first day on a raft was his third day working for a river company, and it changed his life!

This zeal for rivers hasn’t let up—he brings perpetual stoke to his job, always excited to be where he and the rest of the crew are, to further explore and learn new things. This also makes him very relatable to our guests who’ve never spent any time on the river, who are maybe feeling a little nervous, and then discover just how fun it is. Even if you’re a veteran of the water, you’ll find his enthusiasm infectious, and his focus on trust and safety reassuring.

Conor is most proud of being a guide on the Illinois River and as a natural, gifted teacher, he also enjoys his work as a rowing instructor and the opportunity to impact the growth of our students.

Outside of this growing love for river guiding, you can find Conor fishing, biking, skiing, snowboarding, hanging with his friends and dog Scout, planning his next travels, or—whew!—simply chilling out with episodes of Gear Garage.

Words to Live By: “There’s always bigger fish”

Sako Hisamoto

River Guide
  • Born: Medford, OR
  • Lives: Eugene, OR

Sako’s 22 years of experience as a firefighter has proved to be a great complement to his professional guiding work on the river and his passion for all aspects of whitewater runs high whether rafting, kayaking, or practicing technical rescue.

As one of our newer guides, Sako appreciates getting to do hard work with a great team of people who work together seamlessly. He enjoys showing people places he loves, on the water and in the woods, and particularly relishes that moment when a guest who’s spent little to no time in the wilderness is moved by their experiences of these places.

Sako is an avid cook learning early on in his firefighting career that cooking well meant getting into the better firehouses. Making meals for others remains one of his favorite ways to take care of those around him and bring people together while setting aside differences.

People describe Sako as fun-loving with a side of goofy while remaining serious about safety. Even as an outdoorsman with decades of experience, he continues to learn new things and credits the mentors he’s had in the fire service and on the river as instrumental to his lifelong love of education in the outdoors.

When he’s not firefighting or river guiding, you’ll still find Sako spending as much time as he can in the outdoors, especially with his kids. He also enjoys making things, mostly furniture.

Words to live by: No problems; only solutions

Heather Harms

River Guide
  • Born: Anchorage, AK
  • Lives: Bend, OR

Calm and compassionate, Heather is driven to help people reach new levels of self-awareness through connection to specific elements of outdoors. As an experienced Chiropractor, she brings a personal caring touch to her interactions with the guests making them feel instantly comfortable and open to what will unfold on the river. An experienced backpacker and packrafter with thousands of backcountry miles behind her, she embodies endurance, toughness, and intimacy with nature. As she balances her chiropractic career with guiding in the summer, she demonstrates one way a person can find balance between work and play and hopes this inspires others to pursue their own equation.

Heather loves being part of the NWRC team and hanging with the crew while at work and in the off season. She gets excited every time she runs the middle shoot of the Rogue and sleeps outside in the wilderness while “on the job.”

Also her jam? Lengthy packrafting or backpacking trips where you forget about the home routine and how bad you smell after day three when there’s six more to go, getting on any new river, watching Bird TV (aka her backyard chickens), and home improvement.

Words to Live By: “There’s always bigger fish” Sleep outdoors on the ground as much as possible, motion is lotion, jump into the water before you can’t and think of the planet.

Thinley Tobden

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”

Chencho Drukpa

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”

Peter Fox

River Guide + Rowing Guru
  • 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”

Nick Wright

River Guide
  • Born: Maui, HI
  • Lives: Boise, ID

When we say Nicholas is committed to providing the best possible experience to each different set of guests, we truly mean it. He has a genuine interest in getting to know our guests and connect with them on a level that’s deeper than just guide-client. He’s hard-working, fun-loving and nobody can yell “coffee” quite as loudly in the morning as he can.

Nicholas’ love affair with water began with surfing in Hawaii during his childhood. When he moved to land-locked Colorado for school, his desire to get into the water led him to the rivers and his passion for whitewater grew.

Nicholas is proud to guide trips that are more than just exciting whitewater, they’re also a
wilderness experience that provides a person with the opportunity to disconnect. He’s stoked when guests are excited to spend quality time with other humans in a wilderness setting. He loves helping people scared of getting in a ducky go and crush it, when kid guests tell him they want to be raft guides, and when the coffee is made just right. (Did we mention he’s a bit of a loud zealot about the coffee?)

Nicholas has big love for big waves, big mountains, big whitewater. He finds it simply awe-inspiring to witness and participate in the overwhelming power of that natural world. He appreciates that often big adventures means pushing the boundaries of what humans can do, not only in outdoor recreation but also those who further our understanding of the world and our society.

In his personal time Nicholas really enjoys things that consume his focus like studying, kayaking, mountain biking, and reading.

Words to live by: “If you’re not living on the edge you’re taking up too much space.”