Leaving the Ranch
Further than my memories
this driveway stretches back
windy dust and thunder booms
along the railroad track
Twenty trains a day at least
two thousand cars or more
knowing towns for just a moment
leaving homes I've left before.
Gravel churns beneath my wheels
the river now in sight
a lovely summer on the ranch
A new family overnight
Good morning mist and coffee talk
on the porch where Koa lay
We'll worry about tomorrow
when tomorrow becomes today.
Soon I'll be across the bridge
where the futures four lanes wide
listing towards the four red roofs
right here on the other side
I swallow down the emptiness
when the mailbox passes by
and without a single soul to hear
I honk a sweet good bye. -Justus
WE LOVE OUR GUIDES!
We know the only reason we're providing great river adventures is because of the skills and efforts of our guides. We believe they're setting the standard for professionalism and fun in our industry. While they all have different backgrounds, our guides share a respect for the river, an overriding concern for your safety and enjoyment, and an incredible array of river skills and experience. We feel lucky to work with them closely and our lives are better for it. The guides we've worked with over the years have all left their mark at MRG by making us a better company. GUIDES VIDEO CLIPS FROM THE MRG ARCHIVES
Bryant Knowles, Lead River Guide & Operations Manager
A veteran guide at MRG, Bryant has guided in Wisconsin, West Glacier and West Virginia, and California...he knows his stuff. Bryant immediately made an impact at MRG by helping us run better trips with a focus on giving guests the best trip possible. He's a Wilderness First Responder and a Swiftwater Rescue Technician. The guests love to run the river with Bryant and other guides love working with him because of his work ethic, professionalism,..and he knows how to have fun on the river. Little known fact, Bryant served a brief stintas Keanu Reeve's stunt double in hollywood before getting fired for being , I quote, "too muscular".
" Hi, My family and myself took a trip down the Alberton Gorge on August 2nd. We traveled to Montana from Phoenix Arizona to visit friends and family in Alberton. But your guided trip down the Gorge was the most memoriable part of our vacation. The kids are still smiling and talking about it, and I have a found memory that will last a lifetime. Every part of the trip was profesional and perfect. Our guide, Bryant, was great. He was very knowledgeable and confident. He had a great personality and interacted great with our children. Very encouraging to the group and making us all feel as though we were really acomplishing something as a team. He constantly engaged us in conversation and turned the calmer moments of the trip into "friendship building" moments, where by the time we were done, we felt we had made a new friend, instead of renting a guide. I cannot recommend him enough, he was great. The service that you provide is a real joy. I have every intention of shooting the gorge again, next time I visit. Thanks for the wonderful time!" --Josh Norton and Family
Paul Heffernan, River Guide
Born and raised on the rivers of Missoula, Montana Paul was in the right place at the right time this past summer. After completing our guide school Paul inquired if he could train all summer and maybe someday guide part time. Little did we know we had a future great guide on our hands. He ended up guiding full time for us because he was always ready, worked his butt off, ran shuttles (literally "ran" them) and outworked just about everybody. It didn't hurt that he's smart, funny and has a lifetime of river experience and passion for river running and fishing under his belt. Paul's attending Montana State where he's studying engineering and going to work summers for MRG untill the real world calls.
Josephine Johnston, Lead Riverboard Guide
Born in Missoula, Montana and a graduate of Florence High School, Jo has been running the Alberton Gorge and Blackfoot River since she was three. Jo leads riverboard trips and is a third year raft guide. She also runs safety on most of our highwater trips. Jo attends Willamette University where she majors in environmental science and played volleyball. She's now a cross fit fanatic, she once shaved her head for her Mom and she gives her brothers no mercy. The last two seasons Jo has coordinated the MRG end of the Extremesports4vets riverboarding program and been lucky to run the river regularly with a bunch of bonified American heros who have served and sacrificed.
Rosalynn Belden-Lead Guide
With years of whitewater paddling and guiding under her belt "Rosie" runs great trips and tight ships. An EMT and swiftwater rescue assistant instructor for the Whitewater Rescue Institute, Rosalynn is currently in nursing school. While her husband Martin runs the show at MRG she runs him and keeps us all organized and having fun. Rosie lead guides or runs safety on most of our high water trips, runs our youth camps and guide schools. Rosie is a true river pro and we are lucky to have her keep an eye on all of us.
Martin Belden, Lead Guide & Rescue Instructor
After a stint guiding in California and South America Martin returned to run the rafting operation at MRG ...and we're glad to have him back home. Martin graduated from Sentinal High School in Missoula and parlayed his top-notch swimming and river skills and Montana charm into a job with us as a river guide. Martin has all the makings of a workaholic who keeps it fun. He's an EMT and hardcore creekboater. In addition to working as a lead guide Martin also works as a kayak instructor and is a Swiftwater Rescue Instructor and rescue swimmer at the Whitewater Rescue Institute.
Jenna Witkowski, Lead Guide
A multi-Talented and experienced raft guide, Jenna no longer surprises us because now we just know she's good at everything. How does this happen? All we know is that Jenna showed up for our guide school, all friendly, optomistic and humble from Ohio---did great in the guide school and swiftwater class--trained hard and then just got really good really fast. She's always ready to work, always happy to be on the river, and a great leader for the crew at MRG. Now she's hooked on kayaking--Our prediciton-she's going to paddling the gnar with her legendary big bro in no time. Jenna also works with youth homes programs in Missoula and needs very little sleep to keep working cheerfully. Plus --she runs marathons in Antarctica...that's right.
Jesse Dagle, Guide
Jesse has been leading trips for MRG the past three seasons. He's quietly the most capable person on the trip. Friendly, great river skills, good judgment, and always doing most of the work. In addition to running our whitewater and scenic raft trips, Jesse guides riverboard trips, teaches rescue classes and works with the Whitewater Rescue Institute. Jesse spent part of the 2011 season on the Yellowstone River helping out with the Oil Spoll Clean Up effort. He also helps run riverboard trips with the Xtremesports4vets program.
"Last week our family finished a wonderful vacation in the beautiful state of Montana. We thoroughly enjoyed swimming, fly fishing, hiking, camping, kayaking, and horseback riding as part of the Montana experience. Of course an activity that we had to include was shooting rapids on one of the beautiful rivers of the State. We did just that with Montana River Guides. Our experience exceeded our expectations.Our guide, Jessie, was personable and very informative. We received much more than an exciting trip down the Clark Fork. Jessie kept us in stitches with his wry sense of humor, and kept us on our toes when we needed to paddle through the rapids. He and our safety guide gave us excellent instruction to help keep us safe and still have a ton of fun along the way. We learned so much about the flora and fauna of the area from Jessie, making the trip even more fascinating. Having a snack at the end of our trip was an unexpected and welcome treat. I hope to make it back up to Montana in subsequent summers, and you can be sure that I will include a Montana River Guide run on my journey. Thank you for a wonderful experience. " Sincerely, Lauri Thompson
Trevor Johnson, Lead Guide
Sets the standard for being a great guide and a great guy. A recent graduate of Missoula's Sentinal High School, Trevor started guiding trips when he was thirteen--we thought he was twenty one because he was so much more quiet and serious than the rest of the guides. He also always showed up early(except that one time) to pack for trips. He runs our raft trips, riverboard trips standup paddleboard trips and is an instructor for our guide schools, rafting workshops and swiftwater classes. These things along with being a generally great guy, a Missoula lacrosse legend, and a natural river guide quickly earned Trevor a spot in the regular rotation.... this season he's going to be running the whole show. 'MERICA!
Everett Johnston, River Guide
Ev has been running the rivers with us for years and finally attended guide school, got his SRT and Wilderness First Aid and jumped through the hoops to get checked off to guide. Born in Missoula and a graduate of Loyola, the Big E is attending Carroll College on a hoops scholarship. During the summer he guides raft trips, helps run safety and riverboard and stand up paddleboard trips. Smart, funny and easygoing, Ev grew up spending summers around MRG's guides, running the Missoula area rivers. This past summer he guided for us when he wasn't getting his butt kicked by former Griz and Missoula trainer Steven Pfhaler,...who is trying to get Ev ready to play college ball.
If you've ever booked a trip with us chances are you've talked with Bernice, our boss and reservations manager. B grew up in Hawaii surfing the south shore of Oahu never knowing one day she would end up owning a rafting company and surfing river waves in Montana. Bernice manages the MRG office and reservations during the season where her bbq's and homemade brownies are legendary. Bernice volunteered for 10 years at the Missoula YWCA as a facilitator for women's programs and has a Masters in Counseling from the University of Montana. A fierce protector of MRG's standards, Bernice is tenacious about making sure that after she has promised people a great trip on the phone--that our guides follow through and take care of our guests and give them the best day possible on the river. In her spare time Bernice keeps an eye on her five river kids.
Mike Johnston-Owner A former backcountry ranger in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, Mike is a longtime guide who created Montana River Guides in 1994. An EMT and the river rescue instructor, Mike has served on the local search and rescue team, the local whitewater association board, local bike path and historic park steering committees, the convention and visitors bureau, and chaired the local school board. For many years Mike was the only certified swiftwater rescue instructor in MontanIn 2008, Mike co-founded the Whitewater Rescue Institute with fellow guide Cody Harris, and has provided rescue training for thousands of boaters, guides and professional rescuers. Mike also introduced the sport of riverboarding to Montana over a decade ago when only one other outfitter in the United States was guiding whitewater trips. One of these days it's going to catch on with the masses--one of these days.
Cody Harris, Micro-Manager
Director and co-founder of the Whitewater Rescue Institute, which is keeping him busier than he's ever been. Cody is a renaissance river pro who occasionally supervises all of us and our trips at the Alberton Gorge headquarters. A former whitewater slalom racer, amazing kayaker, wilderness EMT, raft and kayak instructor, lead guide, and whitewater rescue instructor, Cody hails from Durango, Colorado where he graduated from Ft Lewis College. The easy-going heart of our operation, Cody led by example and improved conditions greatly just by being around. Cody is a pro patroller at Snowbowl in the winter when he's not teaching classes for Aerie Backcountry Medicine. Cody has spent so much time in a kayak that his feet are deformed.
"Big water, big fun and a great guide with a great haircut. Cody's terrific guide for a beautiful river trip. We'll be back next year to do another trip with Cody. Thanks!" -"Bones" Nyquist & Family
John Amtmann, Rescue Instructor & Guide
If you're very lucky, you might get to share some river or grill time with "Doctor Octagon". A professor at Montana Tech University, John came to MRG through our swiftwater rescue classes. With over two decades of whitewater paddling under his belt, John's expansive river experience, humble demeanor and genuine compassion for people combine to make him flat out one of the best people in the world to run the river with. John is a Swiftwater Rescue Instructor for the Whitewater Rescue Institute , a ski patroller and a long time EMT in Butte, Montana. Most impressive are John's daughters who are already padddling rivers all over Montana. One more thing, the man likes to grill--anytime, anywhere and he likes to share.
Tom Snyder, We Knew Him Before....
We knew TOm before he became an overnight sensation in downtown Missoula. Now better known as the owner of Missoula's new best restaurant "5 on Black" Tom holds the actual record for being the most personable guide ever...Tom Snyder combined optimism, friendliness, intelligence, public speaking and river savvy into a special cocktail that was dangerously addictive. One time at 50,000 cfs we put in above churning Rest Stop rapid in a twelve foot raft, Tommy looked around at the other guides and said "..er , why is nobody talking..?" Now Tom is serving up the best Brazilian cuisine in Montana,..go get some in downtown Missoula.
Matt Drummond, Lead Guide
He shows up on Big Days and keeps us on track. A University of Montana graduate, Matt earned his reputation during his first season by rowing more highwater Gorge training and safety boat trips in one season than anyone we know of in the past 10 years. Matt put that highwater experiece to good use and started guiding full time for MRG in 2008. A quiet leader with a forceful intellect, Matt was on the river every day living and working hard for MRG out of the Alberton Gorge Ranch. He is still well liked despite the fact that we are unable to tell whether he is making fun of us or not. Utterly reliable and friendly, Matt is an EMT and still occasionally helps with our Swiftwater Rescue Classes and Riverboard trips when he's not surfing in Costa Rica.
"Dear MRG,...What a great day. We didn't even notice the rain. Matt took great care of us, made sure the kids stayed warm (and wet!). Everyone wants to come back next year--on a sunny day. Warn Matt that the crazy paddlers from Minneapolis are planning on another trip! Thank you and see you next summer. " -The Manderbach Clan
Brittany Brindley, Photographer
Photographer, kayaker, teacher, and longtime guide and friend, Brittany now runs PHOTO RAPIDO, the whitewater photography operation at the Alberton Gorge. She does a little bit of everything at MRG, helping us out in more ways than we can list here. She is the daily misson leader for the guides--always getting a group of guides together to go paddling before, during or after work. Brittany is the nicest, sweetest person we have ever known. It also turns out she is one of the hardest working and toughest. A detail--when craving chocolate, Brit can get ornry, even with Cody. Most importantly-she is Bobolito's Momma.
Yael Girard, Lead Guide
She's smart, she's an incredible guide, she runs like ten miles a day, and as shown in this photo, Yael carries the other guides on a daily basis. Yael came over to MRG on the recommendation of Gena G$ Moore. These amazing women worked together in Norther Cali together. Lucky for us Yael showed up because she is doing all of the work for us. It's a little scary because we all thought we were pretty good at everything until YAYA started setting a new standard. She started guiding in Georgia and developed her considerable guide skills and magic out east and in California before winding up at MRG. She gives the best safety talk, tolerates Johnston and Heston, makes fun of Cody, leads by example and as much as anyone we've ever worked with, genuinely cares for the guests she guides down the river. Yael arrived and made MRG a better company.
Dear Bernice & Mike,
I am writing to share with you how wonderful our float was yesterday. Your staff was professional and quick to get us logged in all with a friendly manner. A special note MUST be made concerning Ya-Ya our river guide. She immediately connected with our little flotilla contingent, learned our names and quickly established that my friends are from Spain. What a treat to have Ya-Ya speak fluent Spanish! That was just one of many terrific aspects she brought to the river trip. Her knowledge of the river, geology and ability to translate the knowledge and converse in Spanish was superb. Ya-Ya also put on quite a mid-day lunch after landing in an ideal spot (Quartz stream) and setting up quite a spread of goodies to eat while we relaxed and explored the convergence.
The second half of our trip had Ya-ya entertaining us with her worldly adventures punctuated by a keen eye to spot various river dwellers like the beaver (that was a great catch on her part, very stealthy critter) and the Golden Eagle. I could go on as she certainly is a Pro and her ability to share all that knowledge in an informative and interesting way greatly added to our float. You have a precious jewel in your staff and I simply had to give you a clients perspective.
Many, many thanks...
Christopher & Elena, Spain
Megan Burgmuller, Guide
"Double Tap" grew up in the Bitterroot Valley paddling the local rivers with her dad and got very comfortable on the water. During middle and high school Megan regularly competed in the National Open Canoe Whitewater Championships. At the University of Puget Sound, she Captained the crew team and worked for MRG a bit. Fortunately for us she's back, because we LOVE Megan! She is a consumate river professional and an easy going trip leader, fun to work with, and has unmatched river skills! She tolerates all of the other guides shenanigans with a smile. We used to say she was destined for greatness,..then we realized she's already great.
Tor Anderson, Guide
"The Prodigy". Tor has been whitewater boating since we met him --he was about two years old. Born in Missoula and raised by one of Missoula's boating legends, we weren't surprised when guiding came easily to Tor. At first Tor made the rest of us uncomfortable because he was so damn intelligent, capable, thoughtful and polite. Once we got used to that sort of behavior, we quickly appreciated Tor's reliability, work ethic and river skills. Along with J Dub and Coleman, He was our go to guy for late season trips last year. Tor graduated from Hellgate High in Missoula and is on his way to Oberlin to attend College.
Everett & Sam
Shown here after a winter stand up paddleboard excursion, The Johnston boys have grown up with MRG on the river. Everett, attends Carroll College, helps with shuttles, and guides scenic float trips for our program for Cancer patients and caregivers. Sam attends Loyola High School, helps out at the ranch, volunteers as a victim for our rescue classes, watches Rey, and goes along on a lot of the raft and riverboard trips. Thanks for your help boys.
This is Rey. Our youngest riverboarder and paddler. He likes to camp and he likes the school bus. He specializes in shuttles and putting paddles away.
A former lead riverboard and raft guide at Montana River Guides, Bret is now playing a central role at the Whitewater Rescue Institute as a jetboat operator and operations manager. One of the original New Jersey boys, Brett is quite possibly one of the friendliest people on the planet. You might be surprised to learn that Mollenhauer means "gentle muscles" in the Dutch language. We were lucky to have a guide like Brett who runs the river with style and makes work fun. Known for performing the Iron Cross in the haybarn at sunrise as part of his intense morning exercise routine, Brett is now our primary means of communication with the "Red Feathered Assasin".
Our most-requested guide ever. An amazing woman and a local legend, Imo's passionate about guiding great raft trips. We first glimpsed Imo when she was about 20 and was high speed rollerblading through the streets of Missoula with her wolf Django. Imo started guiding for Montana River Guides back in the 90's. She's an artist, a Montana Folf Champion, and a poker player. Imogen has done a fantastic job of taking care of our guests over the years. One of the things that makes her a special guide is how much she cares about giving guests the greatest possible trip every day. She is a keeper of many of MRG's traditions, one of which she demonstrates in the photo here.
The Grandson of Texas rafting legend Marvin McLarty, Justus has been running rivers all over the world for all of his 20 some years and has a diversity of river skill and experience that few can match. And you appreciate it if you're on a river trip with him because Justus is flat out one of the most capable river people we've ever known. Rafting, canoeing, C-1, kayaking, creekboating, squirt boating, expeditions-- he's done it all and done it very well. He has a reputation for having his boat in the right place at the right time. Justus is currently working for Saturday Night Live in New York City where they have probably no idea what a river guru he is. He built a boat a floated the length of the Mississipi one summer--let me repeat that, Justus built his own boat from scratch and--like very few people ever--floated the length of the Mississipi. Justus somehow figures out how to run the Grand Canyon every year and is nice enough to invite us along --usually about 3 days before the launch date.
Dave Glaser-Guidus Emeritus
Captain Dave, guidus maximus, also known as "the Silverback". A long time kayaker and creekboater, kayak and raft instructor, and lead guide with a masters in environmental studies, Dave brings years of river experience, outdoor leadership, knowledge, and tenacious wit to MRG. He's a great friend, a great guide and we all have more laughs and more fun when Dave's around. Captain Dave is happily married with beautiful twin daughters who have the most amazing eyes we have ever seen. He is now a bigshot at the Montana Community Development Corporation where he helps Montana businesses with business plans, financing, and other stuff normal river guides don't understand. An natural financier, a rarity for river guides, Dave supplements his income in our yearly $5 buy in no-limit hold-em sessions attended by former and current MRG associates such as Trent Sugar Baker, the Spaniard and Joe "Shorty" Jensen
"Great Trip! Dave handled the boat fabulously. We were all very impressed! Enjoyed floating down the river outside the boat too! Keep up the good work!"
Dan Berger-guidus sabbaticas
A writer, traveler, and master flyfisherman with a Masters in Environmental Studies, Dan is a legend at MRG where he has never raised his voice except in exhuberance. Dan's responsible for educating the MRG staff on local geology since his Master's thesis focused on the story of Glacial Lake Missoula. He is our favorite person to BBQ with and for some reason the most popular member of the MRG guides poker night, an assemblage of some of the worst hold-em players on the planet. Dan is on sabbatical back east --White Lightning--we await your return.
"The whitewater was fun. The scenery was amazing. Dan knew everything there was to know about the river. Thanks for sharing the story of Glacial Lake Missoula with us. The canyon was a wonderful place to teach the kids geology. We'll take those memories home with us and look forward to coming back soon."
With over twenty years of river experience, lead canoe instructor Alan Burgmuller competes every year at the Open Canoe Whitewater Championships. A few years back he organized the Nat'l Championships in our backyard on the Blackfoot River. He knows the Missoula area rivers better than anyone and practically lives on the Bitterroot River. We're lucky to have someone with so much experience, skill and river knowledge at MRG. Alan is a lead instructor at our guide schools and whitewater workshops when we can convince him to take a weekend off from his open boat. A graceful telemarker, longtime carpenter and artist, and shockingly aggressive ping pong aficienado, Alan now coordinates the Swiftwater Team for Ravailli County Search & Rescue.
A contractor, biologist, expert kayaker and creekboater, wilderness EMT Instructor, raft and kayak instructor and lead guide, Jeremy worked directly under the gentle supervision of Mike and Cody. By this we mean Jeremy did all of the work and supervised almost every aspect of the river operation. He was our problem solver, Alberton Gorge ranch manager, and did most of the work while around here while we watched. J-Lo proved that it is possible to be both a workaholic and a raft guide. Jeremy now works with Missoula boating legend Kevin Billingsly, and together they try to employ as much of the Missoula river workforce as possible in the offseason.
"Thank you Jeremy.You did a great job guiding our raft through the rapids. We were impressed with your ability to always have the raft in the right place at the right time. You were the best guide we could've hoped for and we don't care what Dave says, we think you're better looking than Keannu Reeves."
Chuck K., San Francisco, CA
The Brothers Mollenhauer: One day the Alberton Gorge was consumed by fire, the river was shut down, the roads were closed, the power and phone lines were down,and everyone was being evacuated. A few stubborn MRG guides along with the Johnston kids were holed up at the Alberton Gorge ranch with no food or water, exhausted after helping the neighbors evacuate. We were worn, we were frazzled, there was little hope. The power was out. With only their brains, determination and hands (registered with the DMV as weapons) these two men became Gorge legend when they decided MRG might need saving. It was a little after midnight when the Brothers evaded roadblocks and drove through fire to come to check on the Johnston Family and the guides. They didn't bring food or water, but they did bring plenty of cold beer.
Trent "Sugar" Baker
Perhaps the finest pure athlete and legal mind ever to paddle for MRG in the early days, Trent Baker was a great guide for MRG and continues to be a great friend and advisor. He holds the company record for gracing the MRG Yellow pages photo (our equivalent of the sports illustrated swimsuit cover). His first official training trip ever --he was 45 minutes late to help pack--despite this he got Johnston to not only like him but convinced him he was reliable--no wonder he's such a good attorney. As it turns out MRG still relies on Trent, not only for our occasional texas hold'em sessions, or for dawn patrol invitations to Triple Bridges, ...we rely on Trent for his advice on all matters, whitewater and legal. More importantly Trent uses his considerable talent as a boater and attorney to do great things for Montana trails and rivers. He was President of the Missoula whitewater Association and spearheaded the effort to build Brennan's Wave, arguably the best man-made surf wave in the world.
"Bret, you know every morning at the ranch when you get up early and do the iron cross on the rings in the haybarn?...And when, silhoutted by the sunrise, spasming with the effort, through gritted teeth you scream "HOLD, HOLD, HOLD.".....while the rest of the guides are porch sitting, having coffee, and doing the crossword???--feel free to join us when the pain subsides....."