FAREWELL TO JOE


A passion for life and adventure and an inspiration to all!

Joe Tonsmeire, long time river runner, adventurer and friend to many of you, passed away March 9, 2007. After a bone marrow transplant in August of 2005, Joe recovered to enjoy running most every trip offered by WRO in Idaho, Montana and Alaska the summer of 2006. His awesome run through Jarbidge Falls rapid on the Jarbidge/Bruneau trip that summer is amazing and inspiring and can be viewed by clicking the video below. Joe captained a paddle boat all the way through the Grand Canyon on his last river trip in September, 2006 with family and friends.

Joe’s passion and love of wild mountains and pristine rivers led us to many exciting adventures with many of you over the years. His enthusiasm for sharing this love of nature with others never faltered. In fact, he thrived on it. He lived life to the fullest. Most of his days were spent in the outdoors, whether on wilderness adventures, working on the ranch, climbing mountains, riding the range or chasing an elk up many a mountain top. Joe was an adventurer, we always joked that he was born 100 years to late. Joe was laid in peace on a mountain top on his beloved Hayden Creek Ranch in Lemhi Valley near Salmon, Idaho.

Joe and Fran started Wilderness River Outfitters in 1972 and celebrated 36 years of whitewater rafting and backcountry guiding last winter. Amy and Seth, who many of you know, have been guiding for many years now and will continue to run WRO with Fran. We miss Joe very much as we know many of you will. All of us here at WRO are dedicated to keeping his spirit of adventure alive and thriving for many years to come.

If you would like to share your favorite “Joe Adventure” we are compiling Memoirs of Joe and would love to hear from you. We want it to be a memorable tribute to this very special man.


We would like to share with you a poem written by Amy Tonsmeire for Joe:

With the pace of a mountain goat and the heart of Lion, he never stopped living – he’d rather die trying;

From the top of McKinley or thru raging falls, he’s riding the range and shooting the stars;

The River it called and the trail it began, and the wind always whispered to this special man;

A figure of love, and passion and grace, blue dancing eyes and a smile on his face;

I wonder now what we should do or should say; I’ll follow his tracks and cherish each day;

Well the River it called and the trail it began, and the wind always whispered to this special man.

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