Who: Bill Blodgett
Outfitter Company: North Umpqua Outfitters
Job Title: Co-owner with wife, Sharon
Location: North Umpqua River in Idle Wyld Park in Oregon
Tell about your story on the North Umpqua River:
I started on the North Umpqua River in 1986 & discovered this beautiful scenic & Wild River. At that time the Forest Service had a moratorium on river guide permits. And I got lucky enough to get information that they were going to create the Wild & Scenic Management Plan, so I put my name on a list and waited patiently.
And how long did that take?
In 1992 I finally got a permit. I put my name down in 1988! I went through the process. I was part of a rafting organization here. While I was waiting I went back down to the Kern River, where I originally learned to raft, to work for a good friend of mine, John Stallone of Mountain & River Adventures (also an AO member). In 1992 I was informed that I was a permit holder on the North Umpqua River… It was sort of like winning the lottery. I don’t play the lottery or gamble so for once in my life it really felt like I won something.
How long have you been guiding?
I started river rafting as a family hobby in the early 1980’s. It was the family sport every Memorial Day. It was on the Kern River when I said “man there are too many people in my family; I better learn more about this and do something different.” That’s when I started heading toward the paddling and outfitting experience to gain knowledge about what I was doing.
Why paddling & rafting?
There’s something about rivers & river canyons. They’re a very relaxing and pleasant place to be and you get to really experience the fun and excitement of life- having fun! I like the outdoors. I’ve always been an outdoors kid, so it was really a step to a lifestyle to figure out how to really enjoy life.
Not everyone can say that they get to combine their passion with their job.
No, it takes a little bit of effort. You have to think about what you want and how you’re going to get there. Then you have to be patient… A river is something you have to work with; you can’t force it. It’s like life… I think that’s what I like about the river. Everybody always says “go with the flow” I have added to that [saying]: “keep it off the rocks.” Life has those challenges that you have to navigate through. I think that is the fun thing about a river. It’s similar to how you would fight your way through life. Plus, the aspect of the ability to share something like this with people… It’s really exciting to get to share every day with new people. Each day the river is different. You have different people and experiences. It’s a great way to share this environment with people who wouldn’t otherwise get out of their car or living room to see it.
What is your style of leadership? & Do you get to still get out on the water with guests?
Yes, I do a lot of my own trips. I get out there almost every day. We try to have a local guide always- people who actually live in the area and can share their knowledge. Lately we have begun to integrate guides from outside our area. It’s kind of exciting that they haven’t known much about the North Umpqua but when they get here they really like it. Other guides have a passion for this river, and that’s how they found us. We also do some community college classes to help people make the decision if the outdoor recreation lifestyle is right for them.
Why are you a member of America Outdoors?
The importance of affiliation goes a long way. The hard work that AO has done for the outfitter industry- David Brown has been really helpful for my wife & I when we needed to get some unbiased opinions & information as to what other companies have experienced. Not having that would have made things more of a challenge. But a big part of it is just being affiliated with America Outdoors Association. Especially when you’re dealing with the government. It really does take the participation of others & it makes us all seem like more of a group and so we stand stronger because of America Outdoors.
What is the most rewarding part of being an outfitter?
My office. Where I get to work. People always say “what a wonderful office”, and I think, you’re right. Getting to work outside has always been an important factor of being an outfitter. And always getting to have good equipment and to share with people is part of the fun of it.
Who inspires you in the outdoor industry?
It started with my dad. We used to do a lot of fishing on the Kern River. The fishing was bad one day, so he took a river trip with a pioneer river guide down there [on the Kern River] named Chuck Richards. It only took one trip and we decided to find ourselves a raft right after that. I took some training courses from Sierra Whitewater for some kayaking and along the way while waiting for my permit I met a very good friend named John Stallone and he has been my peer relationship in my business endeavor… It’s just nice to meet someone who has the same dream.
Thank you to Bill Blodgett of North Umpqua Outfitters. Give them a like on Facebook!
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