A Day in the Life – Colorado Raft Guide

Henry Dorris spends his life divided. Half of the year he is a rugged Ski Patroller on the slopes at Breckenridge Ski Resort and the other half of the year he passionately devotes his time to the river. To say that he is living the Colorado dream is an understatement. Dorris has committed his life to outdoor adventures and seeking the best from the wilderness around him. There is no room for boredom in Dorris’ life, so we have to know, as summer is heating up and the rapids are raging, what is it like to live the your summer life on the Colorado rivers?

Photo courtesy of Henry Dorris
Photo courtesy of Henry Dorris

303: How long have you been a raft guide?

Henry Dorris: This is my seventh season guiding; I starting at when I was 25.

303: How did rafting light your fire?

HD: I actually got into guiding from a Craigslist ad. I was living Portland, Oregon at the time and working a regular summer job. I saw the ad and thought, ‘Yup’. My first day rafting was my first day of guide training. I went to the guide training class and guide school in Oregon that summer. I had been canoeing in Missouri before, but that consisted of a lot of beer and not a lot of control. I basically ended up pretty drunk and sunburned every time. Rafting was completely new and different. After the first six weekends of guide school I packed everything into my car and headed to the river.

Dorris Guiding in Oregon - Photo courtesy of Henry Dorris
Dorris Guiding in Oregon – Photo courtesy of Henry Dorris

303: What is the first thing you do in the morning on the river?

HD: Coffee. Coffee is the most important. Since we tend to be up first [on multi-day trips,] we always make coffee for the guests as well as for the guides. I need a coffee first, coffee while hanging out on the beach.

303: What is your favorite section of river?

HD: The Numbers, which is a class IV section on the Arkansas, and Brown’s Canyon on the Arkansas River, are my two favorite spots. The Arkansas is the river you want to go down. The Colorado River is more family friendly and more for floating; the Arkansas River is where I want to be and where I will be all summer.

“My favorite people are the ones that have never done it before and once they realize they are not made out of glass”

TAC in The Numbers - Photo courtesy of Theadventurecompany.com
TAC in The Numbers – Photo courtesy of Theadventurecompany.com

303: What’s your favorite part of your day on the river?

HD: In the mornings we are gearing everything up, inflating boats, loading trailers meeting guests and getting ready for everything that day. Once I am on the river that’s when it’s all worth it. Anytime on the water is the good time of day. You do all the work before and after to get to spend time on the water. It doesn’t feel like actual work for me once I am on the water.

Henry TAC


303: Any tips for first time rafters?

HD: Don’t freak out. Browns Canyon is one of the most rafted canyons in the world and thousands of people have boated this stretch successfully, so have confidence that you can do it. My favorite people are the ones that have never done it before and once they realize they are not made out of glass, they let loose and we can charge down the river; they are the best. It’s really all about the guests and meeting new people, it would just be me in the boat if it wasn’t for them.

Photo courtesy of Theadventurecompany.com
Photo courtesy of Theadventurecompany.com

Looking to take a ride down river with Dorris? Find him all summer long guiding for The Adventure Company in Buena Vista. The Adventure Company offers single-day, multi-day and full moon rafting trips for every type of rafter from beginner to expert. Book your adventure here.

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