“It was the highlight of our vacation!” … Year after year, wave after wave, this is our most frequent compliment
1960’s—This is Dave: Well, at least Dave in the 60’s!
Dave began his “career” in 1967 To Today, and of course we say “career” because who in their right mind would call floating a river, looking for eagles, and trying to splash people “work”? Well, it all started with a little male bravado. One day Dave and his friend, Henry, decided they would raft the Grand Canyon of the Snake. Even though neither rafter had ever rafted the whitewater section, each young man looked right at the other and said something like, “Of course, I’ve rafted this section. Please. I got this. Duh. No problem.” So 4 miles or so into the trip, with both of them having a great old time, they looked down river and saw the cresting, pulsing waves of what would soon be known as “Lunch Counter.” An awesome silence ensued as they looked over the series of 7 waves, each one peaking with 8-10 foot walls. Uncertainly, Dave asked, “Henry, uh, what the hell is that?” And Henry, equally amazed and ready to come clean, said, “Hell, I don’t know. I’ve never been here either!” Realizing there was no going back, Dave laughed and said, “Well, if we’re ever going to get our lunch, we’re going to get it right now!”Thinking back to that first time through the Counter, Dave says, “It was such a rush—an adrenaline rush. We looked at each other and both of us just started hootin’ and hollerin’. And I was hooked. I mean that was it.” Not only was this the escapade that gave Lunchcounter its name, but it was also the genesis of Dave Hansen Whitewater.
1970’s— “Paddle Faster! I hear banjos!”
Dave effectively makes his office on the river and with Burt Reynolds starring in the movie, “Deliverance,” the river rafting boom is here. And people don’t want to just sit there, they want to row! The 70’s bring paddle boats, wooden oars, May West Life Jackets, Green River Rafts, center oar frames, and a brilliant idea in the form of boat ramps. Ten years on the Snake: lots of waves, lots of water, lots of bailing water, and a whole lotta laughter.
More laughter, more waves, more buckets to bail, and more bad hair. The 80’s brings aluminum paddles, Stern life jackets, DIB tanks, Hyside rafts, Dead Horse Eddy, smaller rafts, and the stronger conviction that we should all paddle—not just the guide. Oh, and since the water is near freezing in the spring, how about wetsuits?
1990’s okay, now, this is Bud and Kelly: Well Bud and Kelly in the 90’s!
Fast forward 25 years from Dave’s first ventures down the Snake to the early 90’s and you’ll find a skinny-looking, yet big-dreaming 18 year-old named Bud Chatham. Bud was begging his aunt and uncle, the owners of Snake River Park KOA, to let him spend his college summer cleaning bathrooms at the campground. Okay, so maybe there was a little more to it than the allure of clean bathrooms. When you’re a die-hard fly-fisherman and think a cutthroat trout rising for your cadis fly is pure poetry, well then Jackson is where you need to be. So Uncle Stan and Aunt Karen gave the young man his big break and Bud worked his tail off around the campground (and there wasn’t much tail to begin with). But every free second Bud was on that river, training under some of the best guides in Snake River history. With some 100 trips down the river and an entire summer of training without pay under his belt, Bud is asked back the following summer as a river guide. And of course, he comes back, and he comes back the next summer, and the next, and the next, etc. Sidebar: around summer #3 he invites his pretty cool girlfriend Kelly out with him, and of course, she falls in love. Not with Bud—with the river! (Okay, maybe a little with Bud).
The ’96 and ’97 seasons bring in record-breaking river flows at 38,000 cubic feet per second (average flow is 5,000 cfs). The average trip time would have been an hour and 45 minutes, but with this record water, Bud’s fastest trip was clocked at just 32 minutes. Bud has all the marks of a quality guide: safe, fun, skilled, and gifted at making up stories that aren’t totally true…. Like when he would tempt teenagers to jump in the river at the Wolf Creek “Hot” Springs.
Kelly and Bud are on the river so much that when they close their eyes they see waves. And in the course of all those summers, a recurring question comes to them at the end of each day of rafting, as they would walk around The Town Square with their Haagen Dazs ice cream cone: Wouldn’t it be cool to own a whitewater company?
2004 – The Passing Of The Paddle
The new millennium found Dave wanting to pass the paddle. Thoughts of retirement would surface as the urge to grab the fly rod became stronger than the urge to grab the oars.
Bud and Kelly marry, have two beautiful baby girls, and are just waiting for their whitewater moment. Perhaps it was the fact that Bud would call out “All Forward!” in his sleep, or that those little girls liked messing around in the water more than playing with their dolls, or that Kelly felt the need to wear tevas to work, but that river was always calling. Dave, Kelly, and Bud came together and all three saw a great opportunity.
But there was one essential condition that Kelly and Bud felt strongly about in buying the company: the values and ethics of Dave Hansen Whitewater must remain intact and in fact, thrive. To accomplish this Dave, Kelly, and Bud agreed to work together for an entire season.
2005 – Present
This is a picture of Dave 4 decades after the bravado incident:
Dave is really catching some air in this picture. Aging, as they say, is certainly not for sissies. Nowadays, you’ll see Dave casting a flyrod much more than paddle a raft, but the traditions of Dave Hansen Whitewater stay strong:
We’re all about a respect and love for the river. We think the eagle perched on a tree and the osprey diving for a Snake River cutty is pure beauty. That the stillness of the early morning as the sun filters through the cottonwoods is pure splendor. We’re all about owners who guide and customers who get a quality experience and not a rushed trip down the river. We think safety is first and we train guides who are not just Snake River guides, but guides who can read any river. Guides who can get you wet, get you laughing, get you smiling. We think we’ll be the highlight of your trip. Thanks for reading our story, and we can’t wait to take you down the river!