WRO Response to COVID-19
Updated June 25th, 2020

In times like these, the pillars of biology and common sense tell us that remote river canyons and other wilderness landscapes are some of the safest places to be, far removed from the crowds and shared public spaces of the urban world. However, we understand the obvious concerns surrounding the travel required to get to the starting points of many river trips, as well as concerns about traveling with a group of people coming from different areas of the country.

As the states we operate in move through the stages of reopening, WRO is looking forward to resuming river operations in accordance with Federal, State and local orders. While there is no way to completely mitigate the risk of COVID other than complete isolation, all the research we’ve seen indicates the outdoors are likely one of the best choices for recreation or vacation this summer. This article has some great, science-based information that breaks down how the infection is spread: The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them. The main conclusion is that the risk of contracting the virus in the outdoors is extremely minimal. In preparation for river operations this season, we have put together a COVID Operating Plan, designed to minimize the risk of infection for all our guests and guides.

General trip expectations from all participants:

We have the expectation that everyone who participates in WRO trips respect everyone’s personal space this summer. From first arriving at orientation and potentially meeting new people, to sitting around the fire, to waiting in line for food, it is expected that people will maintain social distancing to the greatest extent possible. We recommend against handshaking, hugging, or physical contact with people outside of household groups and families. If you are in the same group or know other participants and have a clear understanding of each other’s comfort level with regards to personal space, social distancing will be a personal choice among those people specifically. However, as a general rule, we recommend social distancing when possible. It is also expected that all guides and clients will have face coverings or buffs for when social distancing may not be possible, like riding in a bus or plane. It is expected that everyone will try to carry hand sanitizer on trips and practice frequent hand washing.


Additional COVID Measures:

  • Pre-trip screening for guides and guests.
  • We always recommend and promote regular hand washing on our trips, but we will provide increased access to hand washing stations and continue to recommend more frequent hand washing.
  • Recommended daily temperature checks for all trip participants (self monitoring), mandatory for crew.
  • For vehicle travel, when social distancing is not possible, we are requiring masks in buses or planes (increased sanitation from transportation companies between all uses).
  • We provide some transportation options that are included in the trip, however guests are welcome to consider alternate transportation, like driving their own car to the put in, etc.
  • Increasing sanitation for communal and kitchen spaces with Vital Oxide or other disinfectant.
  • Face coverings wore by guides in food prep.
  • Food will be served to guests rather than self-serve to minimize touched utensils.
  • All dishes will be cleaned with additional sanitizing measures.  
  • Separating group gear by “families or pods” when possible.
  • “Family or group pod” drink coolers or drag bags.
  • For larger groups, we will have two campfires to allow for more distancing.
  • Increased disinfecting of the “groover”.
  • Sanitizing tents, river, or camping gear or “resting” items for at least 72 hours between next use after regular cleaning or laundry processes.
  • Following set protocols for any potential suspected COVID case.
  • As testing becomes more widely available, we certainly encourage testing for all trip participants when possible.

As I mentioned above, the risk of COVID cannot completely be eliminated or mitigated when traveling in a group. We feel like we have outlined a plan to try to minimize the risk for participants, both for the crew and guests alike. Please reach out if you have specific questions on some of the measures. This is a living document and will be updated if things change as the situation develops. 

We also have some new opportunities that are not typically available, like smaller group charters and private trips for your family or small group of friends. If you are looking to get outside and enjoy some river time this summer we would love to hear from you and happy to put together some possible options that might work for you. I can tell you from personal experience this spring, I have taken a few short trips and spent some quality time on the river. It was incredibly refreshing to take a break from the news, COVID panic, and my phone and email. That’s something I always love, but it never felt so good! I hope we can share some time in the outdoors with you this summer.


Seth Tonsmeire
WRO President


Loki enjoying a day of practicing social distancing out on the Salmon River around town.