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

Guides at MRG

We have always had such a great  team at Montana River Guides. Year after year the guides not only uphold our company tradition of running great river trips for our guests, but they increase 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. Thanks to Katie Matthews,  Sam Johnston, Amy Braig, Tyler Bisson, Steven Quade and Everett Johnston along with Cat, Marley, Zach, Rich, Caleb, Elliot, Hannah, Bernice & MJ.  A lot of raw river enthusiasm and talent here, perhaps more than we’ve experienced in 27 years at MRG. We are proud that our guides have treated our guests like friends and their fellow guides like family.

Alberton Gorge Raft Guides

Montana River Guides


Alberton Gorge Guides


Katie Matthews- Lead Guide & Instructor

Montana Raft Guide

Katie Matthews arrived at MRG a few years ago to bring a big dose of professionalism, energy and enthusiasm. Katie showed up early for all of her trips and usually went kayaking afterwards. When she’s around we are smarter and better behaved. “Ms. Mathews” is a sixth grade teacher extraordinaire when she’s not guiding kayak or raft trips for us.  We are so lucky to have someone so smart, talented and conscientious on our team. She’s the heart of our operation these days. Katies an EMT, teaches rescue classes, leads our guide schools and whitewater workshops and sets the standard for our new guides. On top of everything else she is our social media director.

Awesome outing with my two kids and I. First class operation. The water was better than our experience on the Colorado last year. Our guide Kati was fantastic, energetic, and great with my kids. Would highly recommend the experience with them any day.
This was our first white water float trip. We were nervous, but really excited. It was a smooth booking experience and we loved our guide, Katie who in her off hours teaches 6th grade. The scenery was amazing! There was time in between rapids to relax. We stopped for lunch and enjoyed the time on the hot rocks too. We went the first week in August and it was truly a perfect experience!
Caleb Dickinson- Lead Guide

Caleb DickinsonCaleb is a lead raft guide, riverboard guide and swiftwater rescue instructor. A Florida waterman, Caleb loves the river enough to guide trips all day and then go paddling until dark. He developed his whitewater chops attending school and guiding in Colorado. Now a devoted local paddler,  Caleb has a comprehensive set of river skills to go with his friendly professional demeanor.

“My husband and I had a great time on the river with our guide Caleb. 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

Steven Quade-Lead Guide & Ranch Manager

Steven Quade is simply one of the nicest, most capable human beings we have ever had on staff at MRG. “Quade” is everyone’s favorite guide to work with. Friendly, capable, professional, smart and a great guide on top of everything else. Steven shows up early, stays late, and is the guide who keeps the operation running smoothly. Squid keeps track of all of our vehicles, trailers and ranch maintenance needs. TRIP ADVISOR REVIEWS: Squid Rules! We had a great trip with Steven. He gave us a great ride and a lot of laughs. We’ll be back for more!


Steven Quade

Quade Flying through the gorge

Leon Laborde-Lead Guide

Alberton Gorge Raft Guide

A recent graduate of University of Montana and part time river surfer, Leon gets the award for the guide most mentioned in our guest reviews. And that’s because Leon is a great guide who loves people, loves the river and knows how to share his passion for Montana whitewater by running great trips. Don’t take our word for it, here’s what our guests say.

“Leon, our guide was beyond excellent and he helped make this already amazing experience simply unforgettable! My friend and I came from CA and had heard about the Montana River Guides but we could never have expected it to be as awesome as it was! I’m back in Orange County now and sitting at my desk wishing I was back out on the Alberton Gorge with this incredible group! As soon as I get time for another vacay I will be, for sure! If you are considering whitewater rafting in the most literally gorgeous setting imaginable, this is the place to go, and THE company to go with, hands down! (And did I mention, definitely ask for Leon — he’s brilliant!) Thanks again, Montana River Guides.”

Leon Beltran Laborde


Sam Johnston-Lead Raft & Riverboard Guide
missoula whitewater rafting

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 attended Lewis and Clark in Portland and came back to MRG this year to help out ur short handed team, provide some enthusiasm and expertise, and set a record for doubles in a season.

Sam Johnston Montana Rafting

Sam Kayaking the Gorge-Age 7

We arrived on a surprisingly COLD day for August – 70 degrees, wind………but our guide SAM got us outfitted with Neoprene long sleeve tops right at the beginning and we are so thankful we had these. Sam was awesome, full of energy – making this a absolute BLAST for the 8 of us in the boat. He pushed us toward the bigger waves, made sure everyone was very taken care of, and even got a warmer fleece for Thatcher, one of the boys with us who was on the front of the boat and got quite wet. Sam was awesome – has us wanting to come back in early June when the high water is running to try it out again. The run on the Gorge was one we will remember for a long time.
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Amy Braig, Lead Raft Guide

Missoula Rafting

Amy Braig, AKAm” Snax”.  Hailing from Kalispell Montana, Amy grew up running the Middle Fork of the Flathead River and came to our rescue in 2020 when we were understaffed and trying to survive the COVID season. A stand out student, soccer player and recent graduate of the University of Montana, Amy worked just about every day of the 2020 season until we finally shut down in September.  Her leadership and people skills are unsurpassed. She’s smart, thoughtful and genuinely cares about our guests and guides. We are so lucky she found us.
We had a fantastic all day float trip with Montana River Guides, including a shore lunch. Highly recommended.
Amy, our guide, was a lot of fun and had us laughing at every turn. She also did a great job guiding us down the Class 2 and 3 waters.
Before we were finished, we had her calling the HOGS. We will certainly do a repeat the next time we are back in Missoula
Absolutely loved our white water raft guide, Amy! Amy told us some hilarious stories—most of which were about the history and “features” of the landscape. Most importantly, she really knows her stuff on the river and communicated clear instructions the whole way. We had one woman who was a little nervous and I believe it was Amy’s positive attitude that helped her enjoy the experience. After the first few rapids, you could tell the woman was enjoying herself! Overall, I would recommend booking your rafting trip with Amy and the rest of the Montana River Guides crew. We’ll be back next June to enjoy the river when it’s a bit higher. Thanks again for the amazing experience!
...We Knew Him Before

The Man, the guide, the legend. Maelan brings a lifetime of outdoor leadership, intellect and charm to work everyday at MRG. A graduate of Loyola Sacred Heart and the University of Missoula, Maelan studied outdoor Recreation. He combines detailed local knowledge, with pleasant intellectual charm and  savvy river skills to guide some of the best trips  we’ve ever seen at MRG.  He duckied and swam the gorge at 26,000 cfs. He represented MRG as a member of our Mineral County Rodeo team.  And he can stay awake for whatever amount of time it takes to drive straight through from Missoula Montana to Doon, Iowa on an Oil Spill Response. Maelan Arciello

Everett Johnston-Operations Manager
River Guide

Everett has been running the rivers with MRG his whole life. Born in Missoula and a graduate of Loyola, the Big E attended Carroll College on a hoops scholarship. During the summers 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. Ev moved to North Carolina to raise money for progressive non-profit groups for a couple years before moving back to Montana to work on Kathleen Williams bid for Montana’s lone congressional seat. He recently settled in Missoula with the amazing Chelsea Chandler and has been focused on keeping MRG running smoothly.

GOOGLE REVIEW: “Such a fun and beautiful trip! Our guide, Everett, was knowledgeable, kind, and professional, and we had an absolute blast! Thanks guys!!!”

Tyler Bisson-Lead Raft Guide
Lead Guide

Tyler BissonTyler, AKA Deep Blue, is a native Montanan with a deep love and appreciation for his homeland and it’s whitewater. We met Tyler when he was still in high school and he took one of our Swiftwater rescue classes. We liked Tyler immediately and noted his relentless positive attitude and enthusiasm.  Now an experienced whitewater trip leader with plans to run his own raft company one day, Tyler is attending Ft Lewis College in Durango, guiding on the Animas and also guiding for MRG in the summers. We is always the first one up at the ranch, setting an example for the other guides. He also helps improve our operation with suggestions on improving guide training, risk management and hiring.

“This trip was awesome! Our guide Tyler was so much fun. He has tons of local knowledge with both the technical aspects of the river and general natural history and current natural information. He knew exactly how to get our kids excited and delivered a really fun experience. Will definitely book another trip in the future.”

-Trip Advisor Review from Trent

Join Our Team


Montana River GuidesRafting Guides together from Montana River Guides

Montana Raft GuidesMontana River Guides

William Connell-Owner of LB Snow in Missoula
Rescue Instructor & Guide

William Connel Missoula Rafting GuideAfter a fifteen year hiatus as an economist and working in outdoor retail, William returned to MRG in 2018 to help out with our swift water rescue classes and as a trip leader for some high water rafting trips. It was great for MRG to get Willi back on the team for a good part of the 2018 season. He brought a ton of river experience and leadership to the staff. He also regularly led the charge to get guides out on the river

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 “Toots” 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. Can we say that it is truly one of our greatest honors and pleasure to have worked with Alan for so many years. He is more than a legend to us

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 & 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.
2021 Guides: River, Caleb, Hannah, Cat, Zach, Marley, Rich, Elliot, Halle and Arissa
Raft Guide

Thank you to a bunch of Montana River Guides who made 2021 an amazing season. Arissa, Cat, Caleb and Hannah transferred in to MRG bringing a bunch of river experience from other companies and rivers. River, Halle, Rich and Zach brought in a ton of outdoor leadership and goodwill skills to make our 2021 season team complete. Veteran MRG guide Mark Waldrup stayed at the ranch for a month to work everyday and make us better. Return Guides Cory Watkins, Leon Beltran Laborde, Toots Burgmuller, Willie Connell, Sam Kinney and Cory Davis also showed up to guide occasionally.

Alberton Gorge Raft Guides

Montana River Guides

Alberton Gorge Guides

Montana River Guides

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.

Paul Heffernan
Lead Guide, Swiftwater Instructor & EMT

Born and raised on the rivers of Missoula, Montana Paul was always in the right place at the right time his first summer at MRG. After completing our guide school, he ended up guiding full time for us because he was always ready, 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. The main thing wrong with Paul is that there are no flaws(other than obsessive flyfishing) we can find–as a human being he sets the standard for us all–so we need to give him as much grief as possible.  Now a lead Guide, EMT, and a Rescue Tech and Instructor at the Whitewater Rescue Institute. Paul’s attending Montana State where he’s studying engineering.


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.

Brittany Brindley

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

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.


Mike Johnston

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 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 swiftwater rescue instructor in Montana. In 2008, Mike co-founded the Whitewater Rescue Institute  and has provided rescue training for thousands of boaters, guides, and professional rescuers. WRI has been a leader in Inland Oil Spill Response, both responding to river accidents and providing training nationwide on how to respond to and clean up industrial spills in moving water.  Mike also introduced the sport of riverboarding to Montana over two decades ago and became the only outfitter in the United States guiding whitewater rafting and river boarding trips. One of these days it’s going to catch on with the masses–one of these days.

My family and I had a once in a lifetime experience River Boarding with Mike. He was an amazing guide and made even the less adventurous among us comfortable in the water. River Boarding, which is essentially boogie boarding in the river wearing wet suits, helmet, and life preserver, is something that Montana River Guides developed and is an incredible way to be intimate with the River. We thoroughly enjoyed our 7 mile journey through swiftly moving currents and a some rapids. Along the way we were able to observe the River and scenery and even saw bald eagles up close.
Super fun for the whole family!
Bernice Johnston

Bernice JohnstonIf 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.