When visitors board one of Wild West Rafting's rafts, they're actually stepping into some historic, soggy shoes. The inflated vessels traverse the Yellowstone River, which was explored by members of the Lewis and Clarke expedition in 1806. These famed adventurers saw many of the things rafters still see: elk, bison, and other wildlife set against the rolling terrain of nearby mountains. Indeed, Wild West Rafting's trips pass several of the majestic sights that define the American West. But the river offers more than just scenery. Near Gardiner, Montana, the flow speeds up as the river descends into Paradise Valley and narrow canyons. Rafters on these sections face an on-water rollercoaster, flying through class III and IV rapids with names such as "Yankee's Revenge," "Box Car," and "Audience Members in the First Three Rows Will Get Wet."
While they're an adventure for most people, these trips define a typical workday for Wild West Rafting's guides, each of whom holds certifications in First Aid, CPR, and Swift Water Rescue. The staff includes experts such as Ryan Winter—who, before coming to the Yellowstone River, honed his paddling skills on the South African whitewaters of the Umkomasi, the Umzimkulu, and the Zambezi. The guides can take groups on rafting trips ranging from a couple of hours to multiple days. During longer excursions, they can combine rafting with horseback rides through Yellowstone National Park.