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Women Seize the Oars – Holiday River Expeditions Reports Growing Number of Females as Rafting Guides and Guests

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Women’s empowerment has seized the rafting industry. A leading river company is seeing a sizable uptick in the number of women now part of its crew of raft guides and staff. And they are recording an increasing number of female guests on rafting and mountain biking trips, scheduled and chartered.

Holiday River Expeditions reports that through the 2018 season, 40 percent of their guide staff were women. That’s the highest representation ever in its 50+ year history. It is looking like this coming year will be no different.

“Most of these women are returning for 2019. And we now have more applications for guide and crew positions coming in from women than from men these days,” said Karen Johnson, Holiday’s long-time office manager, and spokeswoman. A growing number of women also serve in the office and warehouse as drivers and company managers. Susan Munroe, a long-time Holiday employee, leads an in-house guide/crew training program. Natalie Osborn has recently come onboard as the Social Media Director. Lauren Wood, a third-generation guide and founder Dee Holladay’s grandchild, is the company’s Trip Director and identifies as non-binary, adding further gender diversity to Holiday’s eclectic staff.

Female guides aren’t new to Holiday River Expeditions but they are becoming more of a force and influence. “Early on the rafting industry, much like every other outdoor industry in the 60’s and 70’s, was male dominated. Our founder Dee Holladay, always recognized the arbitrary nature of gender divisions and truly appreciated the added and necessary perspectives of women on the river,” added Johnson. “He used to say that women made better guides because they knew how to read the water better and not simply muscle their way through obstacles and rapids.”

Creative marketing at a time when the market is also expanding has led to an increase in the number of female guests. For example, a series of Balance & Flow Yoga and Wellness Trips draws increasingly more solo female travelers. Reunions of friends and just-for-the-fun-of-it groups of colleagues sign up for these itineraries, as do mothers and daughters.

“It’s not unusual to have an entire female staff on any of our trips these days. I hear it all the time that Mom was so glad for her daughter to witness a strong and capable female rowing their boat or leading their trip. It’s the perfect role model,” said Johnson.

New this year from April/May through September/October are custom, small group women-only rafting and biking itineraries in Utah and Colorado. These trips can be tailored to group desires, from the area, length, menu options and guides; all female or a mix.

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1 Comment to Women Seize the Oars – Holiday River Expeditions Reports Growing Number of Females as Rafting Guides and Guests

  1. Interesting article. Makes one think that hiring women river guides seems to be a new thing in Utah and Idaho-which it isn’t. I started running rivers 1968 and was trained by women guides and when I started our rafting company my top guide and lead guide trainer was a woman. Women have been in the water sports industry for decades. The elephant in the closet is sexual harassment in both private companies and nps where it is rampad. These are the issues outfitters need to deal with.

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