For more than 30 years, Blue Sky Outfitters has been equipping rafters to barrel down rivers throughout the Pacific Northwest. Whether floating past bald eagles on the the still waters of the Skagit River or plummeting down the 14-foot Husum Falls, the company's whitewater rafts—helmed by capable pilots—meander through wildlife that stuns with the power of a beautiful, inspiring electric fence. For land-bound trips, adventurers can strap on snowshoes and journey through the Leavenworth Valley, or peer through the wide windows of the Adventure Bus as it journeys through wine country. All whitewater trips include a barbecue meal with sirloin, corn on the cob, potato salad, and a deep sense of satisfaction.
All Season Charters' quartet of captains share the wheel of the company's single 50-foot, all-purpose boat, Annie A. The ship serves a variety of purposes, ferrying passengers as they hunt salmon with the firm hand of Captain Amy at the tiller or spot whale flukes with the eagle-eyed guidance of Captain Michael. It holds up to 20 people, providing ample railing-space for scenic views, as well as the comfort of a galley with free coffee. The captains, for their part, charter their vessel out for any kind of oceanic excursions, such as sea burials or hunts for that message in a bottle you lost.
For the Hanke family, it seems like Puget Sound Express has always been part of their lives. Raised in the Puget Sound his entire life, Pete Hanke honed his seafaring abilities alongside his father, Pete Sr. Together, the two started leading weeklong sailing adventures across the Pacific Northwest in 1981 and eventually started whale tours. Today, the business still remains a family affair, with grandparents, children, and grandchildren working side by side. Sherri Hanke, Pete’s wife, feels this is the company's biggest feature. "We have three generations of captains, so there is a wealth of knowledge there."
In addition to their family members, Puget Sound Express's crew is well acquainted with the area's 88 resident killer whales, which naturalists can identify based on their markings and slick leather jackets. Tours also pass into the habitats of other wildlife, often spotting humpbacks, sea birds, and bald eagles. The Hankes' most popular voyage tours the San Juan Islands, pausing at the fishing village of Friday Harbor. According to Sherri, this region is well known for its weather. "We refer to it as the Blue Hole, because it is like this circle of sunlight. It could be raining in Seattle and extremely sunny here."
The Hankes take adventure-seekers out on the M.V. Glacier Spirit, a modern, 70-seat vessel with open-air viewing decks and large windows allowing sightseers unencumbered views. Additionally, an on-board hydrophone listens in on whales' vocalizations to see which songs are currently stuck in their heads.
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.
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 share their knowledge of the region's landscapes and hottest nightclubs for 20-something salmon 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.