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

Missoula Raft GuidesWe have always had such a great  team at Montana River Guides. In 2018 the guides not only upheld our company tradition of running great river trips for our guests, but 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. Thanks to Ellie Turner, Sam Kinney, Willie Connell, Maelan Arciello,  Jerrod Sellers, Cory Davis, Leon Beltran Laborde, Sam Johnston, Katie Matthews, Sami Stasi, Stellan Bechtold, Russell Gilbertson and Kaito Roemer.  A lot of raw river talent here, perhaps more than we’ve experienced in 25 years at MRG.

As we approach the 2019 season Sam Kinney is back to manage the river operation. Sam makes sure we were all getting out on the river after work and brings his friendly professional approach to customer service. Leon, Maelan, Katie and Marian are returning lead guides and Everett Johnston is managing and guiding trips occasionally.  We have a few new faces at MRG who make us better as well. Kyle Loch,  Steven Quade, Maya “Big Spoon” Heffernan and Tyler Bisson are all kicking ass. In addition Rob Millspough and Mark Waldrup bring a ton of river skill and experience to the team.

Alberton Gorge Raft Guides

 

Ellie Turner-Turntable Bakery

Ellie arrived in Missoula from Vermont already carrying a love of the outdoors and mountains. For the past six years Ellie has been the heart and soul of the operation, doing all of the extra work to keep MRG running. 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.

If there’s an event or party at the ranch it’s usually because Ellie has made it happen. Right now she’s baking Alberton’ most delicious biscuits and chocolate chip cookies.

Ellie Turner Riverboarding Guide

 

 

 

 

Trip Advisor Review for Ellie

“We booked our trip while the water was high and the white water perfect. We felt safe at all times but enjoyed the excitement of the 5-6 rapids we navigated. Our guide Ellie made the trip personal and shared a wealth of knowledge on the history, geology, wildlife and dynamics of the river which was an unexpected surprise. She also spins a great story and sports a great sense of humor so beware of the tall tale. This combined with the delicious lunch and other guide staff made it a memorable day. I would recommend this for couples, families, young adults and children.”

 

Sam Kinney-River Manager
Alberton Gorge Guides

Sam Kinney-Operations Mgr

Sam is our lead guide and river operations manager. A 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 and manager.

“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

Jerrod Sellers-Guide
Guide

Jerrod brought a whole bunch of experience to MRG from years in the military as a medic. Now a full-time student studying Wildlife Biology at the University of Montana, Jerrod has been guiding at MRG for the past two seasons. A talented musician, Jerrod has been running many of our weekly summer Riverboard trips with Xsports for Vets.

TRIP ADVISOR REVIEW: “We had an awesome time out on the river with our guide Jerrod. It was the first whitewater rafting trip for two in our party, and he did a great job of making them feel comfortable and confident so that they could relax and have a good time. I recommend going out on the early trip because we were the first group on the river (due to the proximity of their location to the put in) and we got to see about a dozen bald eagles soaring through the gorge before the rest of the rafting groups scared them off. Definitely a highlight of our trip to Montana!”

Jerrod Sellers

Leon Laborde-Lead Guide
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 know 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.”

 

Sam Johnston-Lead Raft & Riverboard Guide
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’s attending Lewis and Clark in Portland, OR and spending his summers guiding here at MRG.

Sam Johnston Montana Rafting

Sam Kayaking the Gorge-Age 7

Katie Matthews
Guide

Missoula Raft Guide

Katie Matthews arrived at MRG this summer to bring a big dose of professionalism, energy and enthusiasm. Katie showed up early for all of her trips and usually went kayaking afterwards. We are looking forward to working with Katie next season. When she’s around we are smarter and better behaved.

MAELAN ARCIELLO-Lead Guide
...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
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. 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.

Marian Biddle-Raft Guide
Lead Guide

Missoula River GuideMarian hails from Florida and brings a wealth of outdoor leadership and skills to the MRG whitewater team. A longtime Outward Bound Instructor, Marian shows up and makes us all better. A kayaker, climber and outdoor renaissance woman, Marian sets the standard for professionalism and genuinely cares for her guests and co-workers. We hope she’ll stick around and run the place someday.

Martin Belden
Lead Guide & Rescue Instructor

Martin BeldenAfter 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.

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 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.
Sami Stasi
Lead Guide & Manager, EMT

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.

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.

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.

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 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 Montana. In 2008, Mike co-founded the Whitewater Rescue Institute  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.