Whitewater raft guide, kayaker and writer passionate about exploring new rivers and cultures, Juniper Rose has paddled in 15 states across the US and 9 countries around the globe. She loves sharing rivers with others whether its clients on a guided trip or good friends out for a kayaking run. When she was 12 years old Juniper convinced my dad to let her come along on a source to sea trip that started at the headwaters of the river where she was raised and ended in the ocean weeks later. Ever since that trip she’s been hooked on whitewater. By age 16 she was guiding commercially. Guiding then became a summer job during college and a means for traveling the world thereafter.
Why do you keep rafting?
Whitewater rafting is addicting, from the adrenaline rush of rapids to the tight-knit communities it generates. Having worked as a rafting guide on and off for the past eight years, I’ve learned there aren’t many jobs that can compete with getting to take a new crew of people out on the water everyday and introduce them to the rivers that you love.
How has rafting positively impacted you in what you do?
As much as I love the rivers themselves, one of the most valuable parts of rafting is the communities it brings you in to. Whether you are a lifelong guide or just going on a day trip, it exposes you to a culture you would not get to be a part of if you were just traveling through. The season I spent guiding in South Africa is among my most memorable rafting experiences for the opportunity it gave me to be immersed in a culture so different from my own. I worked with a group of Zimbabwean raft guides who, after guiding on the infamous Zambezi for years, had migrated to South Africa to work on the Ash River where I met them. While the local guides welcomed me into their world, they had never worked with a female before – raft guide or otherwise – and it was as much of an adjustment for them to work alongside a woman as it was for me to guide in a foreign culture. As women in the rafting industry we have been taught that we would have to prove ourselves in order to be accepted and treated equally. In this foreign guiding culture I realised that proving yourself is only part of it. It is just as important to embrace the differences and learn to work together to each of our strengths.
What’s your worst moment on the river?
When I agreed to take a rafting job in Alaska I knew I wasn’t going for the whitewater. I was going for the opportunity to work remote multi-day trips in the Alaskan wilderness, to see Grizzly Bears fishing as we rafted by and to be flown out at the end of back country trips on bush planes. And it was true, there were a lot of perks, but there was also a lot of flat water. Thus, the hardest moment of my rafting career so far didn’t happen on a class V river. It happened on the mighty class II Copper River. We had been rowing for a week when we reached a section so wide and flat it was like an ocean. The waves kicked up and the wind blasted so hard up stream I couldn’t lift my oars out of the water without being blown up stream. While I was literally sweating from the struggle to keep my boat inching forward, my clients were shivering in the cold wind. The looks on their faces told me they were miserable but I couldn’t do anything about it because I couldn’t leave the oars to get them warmer clothes or even speak words of encouragement, I was too exhausted. It is the most helpless I’ve ever felt at the oars.
You love the water but what else do you do?
When I’m not paddling whitewater, I’m usually writing about it. I’ve been lucky enough to interweave my two passions – whitewater and writing – into one lifestyle. I am a freelance writer, and while I write about a range of travel and adventure topics, of course my favourite is paddling. I really appreciate the balance this brings to my life because it keeps me from getting burned out on either of my pursuits.
Words of wisdom to those new to rafting?
The rafting community embraces newcomers – especially those with a healthy streak of enthusiasm and a high tolerance to cold water and stupid jokes. The beauty of the sport is there is room for everyone from occasional weekend paddlers who may choose to stick to class II or III whitewater, to those who dedicate their lives to rafting. While everything from the gnarly rapids to burly rafters can be intimidating at first, you will find that if you can prove that you are driven and humble both the river and the people will welcome you with open arms. As a young woman entering the industry it is crucial to realise that if you let go of your pride and are ready to learn from those around you, you will find supportive mentors ready to help you excel in the sport.
Key strength of the IRF?
Rafting would not be nearly as special if not for the great people that make up the boating community. The IRF is key to connecting the global rafting community and creating unity on rivers world wide.
When or where will we see you next?
I am currently migrating south from a summer of raft guiding in Alaska to guide on the Gauley River for the fall. I hope to see you on the river at the annual rafting reunion that is Gauley Season! Until then, reach out on Instagram @JuniperJRose
Juniper is one of our River Family. Are You?
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We’re looking for more stories of River Family – if you have a story to tell, email Sean with your story and photos.