The Glory Days of Cheat River Rafting

In the 1970’s, long before anyone was a sponsored paddler, the only way to make money by paddling was to be a river guide. Unlike the west, where commercial and private paddlers formed very separate groups, back east, we were all part of the same community. Since there were very few skilled whitewater paddlers around, we often tagged along on commercial trips running the Lower Yough. You got a free lunch and a shuttle in exchange for working informally as an extra safety boat. It was easy to move from this to occasional employment. There were no real “standards” for guides; you just had to be known to the company manager. On busy days “known” paddlers were sometimes approached and offered work as they unloaded boats. My first day of guiding came after my car was broken into and my wallet stolen. When I tried to borrow twenty bucks from Greg Green he recommended me to his boss at White Water Adventurers instead. By the mid-70’s I also tagged along occasionally on Cheat River trips. Business here was growing fast. My friend John Brown, who guided for Mountain Streams and Trails, told me one spring that they were looking for safety boaters on the Cheat. He suggested that I come down for a training weekend and meet “the boys”. Afterwards, I signed up to work several weekends during April and May. Later that Spring I met the company owner, Ralph William McCarty.

Read: The Glory Days of Cheat River Rafting, by Charlie Walbridge.