Dave Button grew up along Washington's Skagit River and had the inspiration to found his own company while navigating the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon under the helm of famed guide Georgie White. Soon after, Dave returned home to create Pacific NW Float Trips in 1974. Today, Dave and his crew of trained, passionate guides pioneer the routes and share their knowledge of the region's landscapes and salmon population via inspirational tours held year-round on the Skagit, Nooksack, and Wenatchee Rivers. Pacific NW's famed Bald Eagle Raft Adventure grants tourists a chance to take in the serenity of rustling cottonwoods and the majesty of Mount Baker as their guides quietly point out migratory eagles from Canada and Alaska.
Growing up in Idaho, Luke E. Baugh was never far from adventure. His early experiences in the state's rugged backcountry were so formative that, rather than settling down when he got older, he set out to explore the natural landscape of the entire United States. Luke spent years on the nation's most challenging rivers, mastering the art and safety of rafting as he learned to maneuver through their harrowing rapids. But that wasn't enough. Luke had to share the beauty he'd experienced with others.
At Triad River Tours, Luke and his team know that the number-one reason people don't get to enjoy the outdoors is fear, which is why they make it their mission to ease as many of their customers' worries as possible. Every lead rafting guide is a professional outdoorsman who undergoes and graduates from Swiftwater Rescue training. Every tour follows meticulous safety protocols, including the use of a safety kayaker to communicate upcoming river conditions and funny-looking pebbles. And even before they offer a tour, the team spends up to six months scouting, preparing, and analyzing the specific route to ensure that every variable has been accounted for. This is all so that everyone, from the timid to the adventurous, can enjoy the beauty of the water and the inspiration of the outdoors. The result is a range of exhilarating tours for every interest, from the tranquility of romantic dinner tours to the adrenaline boost of Sauk River's Class III rapids.
Wayne Ackerlund and his knowledgeable guides captain a small fleet of propane-heated boats along the Skagit River, home to the highest concentration of bald eagles, as well as the happiest population of water molecules, in the lower 48 states. Before the three-hour tour kicks off, guides will greet guests at Howard Miller Steelhead Park and transport them to the launch site. High-backed, cushioned seats help six to eight guests relax as they sip steaming mugs of hot cocoa, keeping eyes and camera lenses peeled for glimpses of regal eagles feeding or building nest eggs. As guides tell of the eagles, their habits, and their habitat, motorized boats sail across a diverse ecosystem harboring elk, cougars, bears, and waterfowl, all living in the shelter of blue snow-capped mountains and lush evergreen forests.
The tenure of US Coast Guard?certified Captain Brett as captain of the Island Whaler began as a dream. In the course of nine months, he had a recurring dream about an unusual flatbed boat, which replaced his normal dreams about beating up Napoleon with Horatio Hornblower. More than a year after the visions stopped, Brett discovered his fantasy boat sitting in a parking lot in Anacortes. He now owns that boat and pilots the open-topped Island Whaler through picturesque waters to view the multitudinous wildlife found in and around Deception Pass.
The open deck and low-slung cabin of the seafaring sloop grants easy, panoramic views of the steep, rocky landscape. Captain Brett chimes in against the breeze with educational details about the pass's historical significance, structures, and ecology. Throughout the tours, spritely fauna with unevolved senses of stage fright perform lively, natural ballets as visitors potentially lock eyes with bald eagles, seals, porpoises, gray whales, and Pacific Northwest giant squid.
If there’s a whale breaching on the protected waters of the San Juan Islands, there’s a good chance a passenger on Mystic Sea Charters’ 100-foot vessel will see the splashy spectacle. The company’s five- to six-hour tours have an impressive track record when it comes to spotting the gargantuan mammals, introducing tour-goers to different species of whale up to 99% of the time. Onboard the ship, a naturalist divulges facts about ocean life as passengers watch for whales from the heated cabin or from the deck, which has 4-foot railings so guests can hold on if whales start singing and dancing to the hit song “Rock the Boat.” The company promises that voyagers will see at least one gray, orca, humpback, or minke whale, depending on the season. If not, they’ll receive a follow-up whale-watching tour for free.
Since 1962, owner and U.S. Coast Guard?licensed captain Terry Buzzard has gotten to know the San Juan Islands and surrounding miles of water pretty well. Having hauled mail for the Post Office, salvaged wrecks, assisted in oil spill cleanups, and ferried passengers throughout the San Juan Islands, he has built quite a resum? of seafaring. This relationship with water isn't so surprising considering he began boating at the age of 3 when he was allowed to pilot a single-horsepower boat by himself with his trained rescue dog, Rusty.
Regardless of the actual job he's performing, Terry is always drawn to whales. By 1978, this fascination lead him to chartering trips specifically for whale watching, especially toward the schools of orca that made the region their home. Looking back, he's pretty certain his boat was the only one in the area at the time dedicated to the thrill of witnessing some of the world's largest and most beautiful animals. Today, the waters are spotted with various boats filled with passengers snapping pictures of the great aquatic beasts and shouting ululations whenever one smacks its enormous tail against the water, takes a playful leap, or belts a Mariah Carey song.
Terry's boat, the 110-foot Island Caper, provides generous sightlines to all passengers via its spacious outdoor deck and ample indoor viewing areas, and is decked out with a 34-speaker sound system. In business for 53 years, Island Mariner Whale Watching's unparalleled time and experience on the water offers cruise-goers an ideal experience, and also employs a seaplane to help spot whales and guide tours. With his chief navigator??a 8-year-old airedale terrier also named Rusty??Terry is right out there amid the excitement, ferrying whale watchers and sharing his life-long passion.