Photo Courtesy of Idaho River Journeys
You and your family have decided to go on a multiple day rafting trip? In this day and age you turn to the Internet for help in planning your vacation. What river? The most popular two rivers in the United States are the Grand Canyon and Idaho’s spectacular Middle Fork of the Salmon River. People usually do the Grand Canyon once. On the Middle Fork people come back year after year. It’s that special. Middle Fork trips ae world-class adventures. Without a doubt the best river trip in the country.
Okay, you decide on Idaho’s Middle Fork. Now, who to go with? There are numerous companies with wonderful web site touting their company as the best one to go with. Most prices seem similar, but there are some companies that offer half-price for kids or kids go free. Some are using discount promoters such as Groupon, LivingSocial etc. Discounts can amount to as much as 50% off of their regular trip price so the pitch is appealing. What is going on?
By reading all of the different company’s information it would seem that they are all similar, so why not go with the one offering the biggest discount? You need to ask yourself: ”Why do you think they are offering huge discounts”? Is it because they are really nice people and want to give you a great deal even though they won’t make any profit? The reason for the huge discounts is because they are desperate for customers to fill all of their empty seats. So why are they desperate for customers? One thought that comes to mind…these discount river companies do not run a quality trip with quality guides and equipment and they serve sub-par food.
Cut rate is cut rate. No getting around it in almost any venue.
Top quality river companies on Idaho’s Middle Fork offer first class service, top of the line equipment, professional guides and absolutely wonderful food. Why would a wise consumer buy a cut rate trip if they value their safety, look forward to quality service and expect top flight professionalism of the guide crew? With a cut rate company you risk having inferior equipment and poorly paid guides – neither of which contribute to lifetime memories of a trip with friends and family. Cut rate businesses don’t attract top notch, informed and caring guides that are key to a quality trip.
Outfitters who offer ‘cut rate’ trips can’t succeed over time. In the short term they cannot keep a top drawer professional guide crew, replace equipment, camp gear, vehicles and trailers; put money into great meals, and all the things that guests expect. If you hope to have a positive long term relationship with your outfitter don’t buy Groupon or LivingSocial etc.
It takes a fair price for an outfitter to put on quality river trips, stay in business and employ top rate guides. Trip prices vary with what outfitters provide, pay guides, food and other features. Go with a true to the core professional outfitter that you will want to book another trip with and be thrilled to send referrals to your friends, family to. Why would you book with an outfitter whose price cutting is a recipe for his financial failure, and also a large indicator that the company is “in financial trouble”. The highest price doesn’t always mean the best experience, but the lowest definitely doesn’t mean a good or even okay experience. While a “great deal” might be attractive, for a bargain hunting river guest, that potential river guest needs to wonder about the professionalism, quality, safety, of an outfitter that routinely does discounted, furniture store style and used car pricing/sales.
For an outfitter to operate a quality business they must pay top wages for top guides. They must also have sufficient cash flow to regularly replace equipment, vehicles and to maintain “paid on account” positive relationships with river bus/van companies, bush pilots, grocery stores and more.
Outfitters are the economic engine that keeps tiny towns like Stanley, Challis and Salmon going,
A “discounter” likely can’t pay his bills to these service providers at the end of the season. Just like those deals that sound too good to be true, and usually are, families thinking of taking a week long rafting vacation need to look beyond price before choosing an outfitter. In a business that relies on word-of-mouth and referrals from past guests, steeply discounted rates have their own negative implications.
Outfitters and guides on Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon are famous for the types of trips they offer and the variety of activities available to vacationers. In many ways, a trip on the Middle Fork is the true “all inclusive” vacation. Fishing is outstanding, hiking trails parallel much of the river, campsites are private and pristine, and the whitewater is world famous. The place itself is spectacular but it is the individual companies and guides that define what to expect on a Middle Fork vacation. Outfitters here are known for providing experiences that go beyond rafting. The top crews are famous for preparing exquisite camp cuisine, having traditional outfitted camps that rival resorts and are exceptional tour guides who want you to experience the Middle Fork beyond the river itself.
Choosing the right outfit for your river vacation shouldn’t be daunting but does require asking the right questions. You will be taking your family to the largest road-less wilderness in the continental United States. Make sure you go with an outfit that has a guide staff that returns year-after-year. The best outfits train their own guides and don’t rely on ‘rental guides’ to fill in bookings as they develop. This is especially true with fishing guides. There are lots of raft guides but a far lesser number of quality fishing guides. Be sure you get A fishing guide and not a raft guide that says or thinks he is a fishing guide. Ask about menus, and types of boats. Ask about the background of the guides. Have they worked together, are they family friendly and good role models, are there activities that will entertain multi-generational parties. “There are only so many ways to save money in outfitting”, cautions Bob Volpert who owns Idaho River Journeys. www.idahoriverjourneys.com. If an outfit is offering a cut-rate trip they have to be cutting corners somewhere.”
The vastness and remote character of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is a spectacular vacation attraction. But outfitter Jerry Hughes of Hughes River Expeditions www.hughesriver.com offers some cautionary advice. “This isn’t where you want to be looking for the best deal for a family vacation. Save that for a trip to Disneyland. Professional guides and lots of experience are extremely important in the backcountry when you are miles to any roads”
To sum up this article…”The bitter taste of a poorly run river trip lingers far longer than the sweetness of a great deal.
Photo Courtesy Of Hughes River Expeditions