Guides, Staff and Owners | Montana River Guides

Meet Our Guides

We know the only reason we’re providing great river adventures is that 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

2017 Guides at MRG

Here’s most of the crew from the 2017 season at Montana River Guides. We hope they not only upheld our company tradition of running great river trips for our guests, but that they increased the bar for next season. Thanks to all of our guides for doing such a great job and caring so much about giving our guests the best trip possible. From left to right we have Ellie Turner, Emily Smith, Sam Kinney, Mark Waldrup, Maelan Arciello, Noah Sohl, Jerrod Sellers, Andrew Mozzer, Cory Davis, Leon Beltran Laborde and Max Rebholz (Not pictured are Sam Johnston and Kaito Roemer who both showed up in early July).  A lot of raw river talent here, perhaps more than we’ve experienced in 25 years at MRG. The picture here was taken in June during our annual Guide Refresher Training, affectionately known as, “Carnage Day”.

 

Max Rebholz

Max Rebholz

What is it with Wisconsin? We have quite a few MRG Legends from Wisconsin, most of them hockey players. Max Rebholz is yet another Wisconsin native who fits right in at MRG. Max recently graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in Riparian Restoration.  After quietly guiding for MRG in 2016 Max stepped in to a trip leader role and has been guiding every day this year. Our guests really appreciate Max’s extensive knowledge of the river and the outdoors.

“I had a great time taking the Alberton Gorge trip with lunch. Max was our guide. I joined a group of 6 other women. We all had such a great time. Max was very knowledgeable & pointed out interesting facts & waypoints along the river. We then stopped for lunch, which was WAY more than I imagined. Everything you could want at lunch….and then we are given brownies for dessert. Yum!” Brooke, Dallas TX

Sam Kinney

missoula whitewater raft tripsA Missoula waterman, Sam Kinney loves the river enough to guide trips all day and then go paddling until dark. An accomplished rafting guide, whitewater kayaker, river instructor and river surfer, Sam has a comprehensive set of river skills. At high-water you can finding him river surfing Brennan’s wave in Missoula or over on Pipeline on the Lochsa River. Sam works at the University of Montana Outdoor Rec Program as a whitewater kayak instructor. Combine this skill set with Sam’s easygoing personality and river leadership and you have the makings of a great guide.

“My husband and I had a great time on the river with our guide Sam. He was excellent at hitting all the rapids to create a great ride. The views and the wildlife were amazing, especially the river otters. I’ve been on many rivers, but never had the pleasure of seeing them in the wild before. I hope we can come back again for a longer trip down the Alberton Gorge!” -Andrea, Fairborn, OH

Justus McLarty
Guide

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, creek boating, 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 on 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.

Imogen O’Reilly
Guide

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.

Sam Johnston
Guide

Sam grew up on the Clark Fork River spending summers at the Alberton Gorge and Montana River Guides. So at this point he should know what he’s doing!  Sam is a Lead Raft and Riverboard Guide for MRG and has a lifetime of river knowledge and humor to share with guests. He’s attending Lewis and Clark in Portland, OR and spending his summers guiding here at MRG.

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 consummate 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.

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.

Trevor Johnson
Lead Guide, Semi-retired to USAF

Sets the standard for being a great guide and a great guy. A 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, stand up paddleboard trips and is an instructor for our guide schools, rafting workshops, and swift water 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…. Trevor is the heart of the operation. ‘MERICA!

Bryant Knowles
Lead River Guide

An entrepreneur & veteran guide at MRG, Bryant has guided in Wisconsin, West Glacier and West Virginia, Chile 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.  Lately, he’s been working more on his own business and guiding down in Chile on the Futelefu. Little known fact, Bryant served a brief stint as Keanu Reeve’s stunt double in Hollywood before getting fired for being, I quote, “too muscular”. Check out Bryant’s Covered Wagon Hotdogs in Missoula for the best snack in town.

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 attended Carroll College on a hoops scholarship. During the summer he guided raft trips, helped 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 before moving to North Carolina to work for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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, optimistic and humble from Ohio—did great in the guide school and swift water 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 prediction she’s going to paddling the gnar with her legendary big bro in no time. Jenna runs marathons in Antarctica…that’s right. It’s where she’s been working every offseason for the past six years or so.

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 creek boater. On top of everything, he’s a Marine so he has our fear and respect dammit! I Martin is now a Swiftwater Rescue Instructor and Spill Response Ops Manager at the Whitewater Rescue Institute.

John Amtmann
Rescue Instructor & Guide

The Most Interesting Man in the world. 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 paddling rivers all over Montana. One more thing, the man likes to grill–anytime, anywhere and he likes to share.

Josephine Johnston
Lead Riverboard Guide, WRF

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 high water trips. Jo attended Willamette University where she majored in environmental science and played volleyball, rugby, and basketball.  She once shaved her head for her Mom and she gives her brothers no mercy.   Jo coordinated the MRG end of the Extremesports4vets riverboarding program for a few years and has been lucky to run the river regularly with a bunch of bonified American heroes. She’s now working at KAVU and helping out on trips whenever she’s back home.

Alan Burgmuller
Bonified Legend & River Master, WFR

With over thirty years of river experience, lead canoe instructor Alan Burgmuller competes every year at the Open Canoe Whitewater Championships. He organizes 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 aficionado Alan now coordinates the Swiftwater Team for Ravailli County Search & Rescue.

Rosalynn Belden
Lead Guide, EMT, RN

With years of whitewater paddling and guiding under her belt, “Rosie” runs great trips and tight ships. An EMT and swift water rescue assistant instructor for the Whitewater Rescue Institute, Rosalynn is a bonified registered nurse. 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 many 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. We love it when Rosie shows up on busy days and makes sure we are running a tight ship.

Cory Davis
Lead Guide & Manager, EMT

We’ve known Cory for quite awhile through our rescue training. We knew he could hold his breath for at least 30 seconds based on a high water swim out of a ducky at Pinball on the Middle Fork. Cory ran another raft company for many years before moving to MRG to help direct rafting operations and work at the Whitewater Rescue Institute. Cory knows rafting and rivers inside and out and is a great teacher for our guide schools, swift water classes, and professional guide training program.   MRG is lucky to have someone with Cory’s knowledge and river experience.  In the winter you’ll find him taking care of everything up at Blacktail Mountain.

Tom Attwater
Lead Guide & Kayak Instructor

With a midwestern appreciation for the mountains, Tom arrived at MRG with a love for our rivers and an eye for the beauty all around us.  He’s a renaissance outdoor man. Thoughtful, artistic and considerate, not your typical guide. When he’s in town Tom guides many of our kayak trips and provides an experienced hand with the rafting as well. Tom studied film & media at the University of Montana and recently formed his own media company, Tom Atttwater Media. Check out his 2016 Cinematography Reel. If you’re lucky you will get Tom as a guide on one of our extended scenic kayak tours.

Maddie Frey
River Guide, EMT

Maddie was arguably the best first-year raft guide we’ve ever seen.  She grew up near Kalispell, Montana running the Middle Fork of the Flathead with her Dad. This may account to her apparent imperviousness to cold water. Maddie ran track and played soccer at the University of Montana. She apparently majored in Kicking Ass because that is what she did at MRG in 2014.  She’s tough, smart, funny and hard working and fit right in as a full-time guide right off the bat. After completing guide school and Swiftwater Rescue Training Maddie helped out with our swift water classes on the Gallatin, Yellowstone, and Flathead rivers last year. She’s an EMT, Swiftwater Rescue Tech and patrolling powder somewhere in Utah in the offseason.

Quinn Smith
River Guide, WFR
Our very own Sasquatch. Registering at 6’10”, Quinn is a tall drink of Chewbacca. A graduate of Florence High School in the Bitterroot Valley, Quinn is attending Western Montana University on a basketball scholarship. Perhaps Quinn’s finest moment at MRG was last summer when he went toe to hoof with a large cow (with large horns) at the Mineral County Fair.  When we saw him remain enthusiastic after nearly being killed, well we knew he was a true raft guide with a big dose of cowboy.
Q’s comfort and expertise in moving water come from years of growing up in Montana exploring rivers with his flyrod. In addition to guiding raft trips, Quinn guides riverboard trips and helps teach our Swiftwater Rescue Classes.
Ellie Turner
Lead Guide & Manager, EMT

Ellie arrived in Missoula from Vermont already carrying a love of the outdoors and mountains. She’s a ski patroller, an EMT and the friendliest guide imaginable. We are always trying to make sure our guides genuinely care about the people we share the river with. In Ellie’s case, she sets the standard. Her enthusiasm and love for the river is infectious.  She’s fun, careful, humble, smart and gregarious.  Ellie creates the MRG Garden and, along with Burgmuller,  motivates Johnston to create better pancakes for our guide breakfasts on big days. Ellie’s attending the University of Montana and patrolling Snowbowl on her new board, riding the molecules in winter that flow through the gorge in summer.

Russel Gilbertson
River Guide, EMT

Russell G, AKA the Golden Eagle, AKA Lil’ Biscuit, grew up rafting the best rivers in Oregon with his family. After guiding for a bit over there Russell brought his formidable river skills to Montana and improved our operation at MRG. We like Russ because he walks the razor’s edge along the path of the hero, balancing carefully between Captain Jack’s intensity and his bosses general confusion. Always the optomist, Russ loves running the river with our guests and always has a good word for his fellow guides. As you can see he is comfortable with the oars.  Russ is an EMT, pro Patroller at Sno Bowl and works at the local hospital while attending the University of Montana.

Matt Drummond
Lead Guide, EMT, and Dreamweaver

Talent, looks, athleticism, a brilliant mind–Matt has none of these but damn he is good. I hate saying this–he may be the best ever!  A University of Montana graduate, Matt earned his reputation during his first season by rowing more high water Gorge training and safety boat trips in one season than anyone we know of in the past 10 years. Matt put that high water experience 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. We suspect he is a former Appalachian porn star, but have no evidence of this other than his demeanor. Utterly reliable and friendly, Matt followed the path of MRG Guide to Wilderness EMT instructor, to all around river sensei and is now a full-time Paramedic in Northern California.

Staff

Trent “Sugar” Baker
Legal

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.

Brittany Brindley
Photographer

Photographer, kayaker, teacher and longtime guide and friend, Brittany created and ran PHOTO RAPIDO, the whitewater photography operation at the Alberton Gorge. She did a little bit of everything at MRG, helping us out in more ways than we can list here.  She was the daily mission 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 ornery, even with Cody. Now a super mom & speech pathologist Brit keeps busy taking her 3 kids everywhere.

Cody Harris
Macro-Manager

Director and co-founder of the Whitewater Rescue Institute.  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, a 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.

Jack Scott
Lead Guide & Operations Manager, WFR

Local boy, track legend, coach, teacher and mentor to everyone at MRG, Captain Jack runs a tight ship. If we don’t put the gear away right –all it takes is the Blue Steele Clint Eastwood stare from Jack and we start guessing what needs to be done better. Along with Drummond, he created some guiding principles for the core guides at MRG. Jack sets the tone for professionalism at our company and has high expectations that we strive to meet. He’ll work all day and go run the gorge after work. On a rare day off he’ll be paddling some other river. Now working as a science teacher in Idaho, Jack is coming back to keep guiding MRG in the right direction.

Owners

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 swift water 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.

Bernice Johnston
Owner

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.