WRO Grand Slam
The Grand Slam club is an acknowledgement of those that share a true passion for rafting and wilderness adventures as we do at WRO. One thing that sets WRO apart from many other river companies is the variety we have to offer among the biggest multi-day river trips in North America! There are four wilderness areas that make up the checklist for the Grand Slam.
The Alsek region is a must see. The Alsek River or the Tatshenshini River qualifies you for this check. These two rivers were ranked the #1 whitewater rafting trips in the world by National Geographic in 2010. That alone makes them suitable for the top of the list. These rivers flow through some impressive wilderness areas of both Canada and Alaska. Kluane National Park encompasses 8,499 sq miles of land, Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park adds another 3,699 sq miles, and finally Glacier Bay adds 5,129 sq miles for a combined total of 17,327 sq miles of protected lands. Not to mention the Alsek cuts through the largest non-polar ice cap in the world, providing impressive glaciers and a flashback into the last ice age. If you like to check off major adventures on the life list, either of these rivers should be on your bucket list!
Another requirement is to experience Idaho’s Frank Church Wilderness. You have two chances for this check, the Middle Fork Salmon or the Main Salmon! Both of these rivers are considered river classics of the world! Lucky for us, they are right in our backyard. The Frank Church encompasses 2.36 million acres (over 3,600 sq miles) of wilderness lands in Idaho. Those numbers make it the largest wilderness in the lower 48. An experience one either the Middle Fork or the Main Salmon is a must do for anyone looking to pick up a classic river trip of the world!
If you start talking wilderness stories with friends, a story from the Bob Marshal will certainly give you some credit. The Bob Marshal Wilderness Complex is made up of three different wilderness areas: the Great Bear Wilderness, The Scapegoat Wilderness, and the Bob Marshal Wilderness. These three areas combined make up the third largest wilderness complex in the lower 48. Both the South Fork Flathead and the Middle Fork Flathead are within these boundaries, either one of these rivers is a note worthy check on a river runners list!
Last but definitely not least is the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness. The Owyhee Canyonlands was designated wilderness in 2009 as part of the Omnibus Lands Act of 2009. Within this wilderness there are over 315 miles of raftable river! The different wilderness sections in the Owyhee Canyonlands make up a wilderness of over a half million acres. This area is still a whitewater secret, but capable of delivering any level of river adventure someone could be looking for! These lonely desert canyons of the Owyhee River and Jarbidge Bruneau offer any traveler a true wilderness fix and a well-deserved check on any river list.
Walter Meranze organized our very first WRO commercial river trip. We met him while guiding on the Colorado River trip through the Grand Canyon and instantly liked his jovial character. It was the beginnings a long cherished relationship. Walter and a group of guy friends were our best customers for many years to follow. As the years went by, many of the guys started bringing their families, including Walter. He and his wife, Arlene, came on several trips with their children over the years. Walter and his son, David, had some good times with Joe on the river. Over the years Walter did most of all of our rafting trips.
Purcie Bennett has been on many trip with WRO. Her parents Walter and Betsy are also long time guests and friends of WRO. Purcie got her first check for the Grand Slam with the South Fork on the Flathead. Purcie has both of the checks for Alsek and Tat requirement. The Middle Fork Salmon covers her for the Idaho requirements. The one trip that separates her from the rest of the Bennett crew is the Jarbidge Bruneau trip she joined as a solo travel. The Bennett crew also put together a custom trip to the Firth River in Canada with WRO. Purcie is great to have on any adventure and is always ready with a helping hand. Hiking with Purcie is a pleasure, as she is always up for a big hike!
Skipper Tonsmeire is family here at WRO, and probably has more river miles than many river guides out there. Skipper is Joe Tonsmeire’s older brother and has spent many days on the river with Joe. Skipper probably has at least 25 Main Salmon trips, a dozen Middle Fork Salmon trips, was on the first Middle Fork Flathead trip that WRO ran over 30 years ago, South Fork Flathead trip in 2009, two Upper Alsek trips, Owyhee and Jarbidge Bruneau, he pretty much has all the Grand Slam requirement cover. Skipper has also organized many Grand Canyon trips with WRO over the passed 20 years. A true pleasure to spend time on the river with!
Veronica Herndon came on her first river trip with WRO in the 70’s and has been coming back ever since. She has many Main Salmon and Middle Fork Salmon trips under her belt, both the Middle Fork and South Fork Flathead, Owyhee, Jarbidge Bruneau, Tatshenshini, definitely has all the requirement covered to be a Grand Slammer! She is also a familiar face on WRO Grand Canyon trips. She has also traveled to New Zealand and Peru on international WRO river trips. Veronica has a great eye for photography and always makes a great addition to any river trip!
Pat and Carol Robertson are long time WRO friends who have been on just about every trip we have ever offered, including the biking, hiking and international trips to New Zealand and the Bio Bio in Chili. They live in Austin, Texas and enjoy the outdoors wherever they are. They made a habit of coming on trips with their good friends for several years, then they brought their three children on the Salmon River in 1985. We watched their kids grow up as they returned to do different trips from time to time. They and their adult children have always preferred trips with hiking or backpacking in combination with rafting. Needless to say Joe loved their energetic enthusiasm for the wilderness and always looked forward to each outing with them. We are hoping to meet the grandchildren someday and take them on their first river adventure.
Mark Tratenburg has been doing river trips with WRO since his first trip on the Middle Fork Salmon River in 1976. He started coming with a group of fun guy friends then soon began enjoying river trips with his son, Reid. Mark is incredibly enthusiastic and fun to be with. He has been on the Tatshenhini, Jarbidge/Bruneau, Owyhee, two trips on the Main Salmon, and the Middle Fork Flathead River. He is retired now and lives in Flourtown, Pennsylvania with his wife, Teresa. Together they enjoy a shared passion in horseback riding. In recent years both he and Teresa have done several river trips, the last one on the Grand Canyon in 2010.
Martine Saunier first came on a trip 1981. She discovered WRO by chance and has been running rivers with us for a couple of decades. She owns Martine’s Wines in Novato, CA which imports fine wines from France. Needless to say we always have the very best French wine on her trips and plenty of it. Martine loves the wilderness and the adventures that always came on her trips with WRO. She loves a good time with friends on the river and is a great hiker. She has done most of our trips including the Tatshenshini, Owyhee, the MIddle Fork Flathead a couple of times, the South Fork Flathead and both Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon and Main Salmon.
Terry and Marilyn Diamond live in Chicago, IL but spend a great deal of time exploring and conquering peaks all over the world. Joe and I took the Diamond family on their first river trip on the Main Salmon River in 1976 and have been friends ever since. Again we watched as their children become adults and the love of nature was played forward. We have taken three generations of Diamonds on the Salmon River. Marilyn always says Joe created a beast by introducing them to the wilderness and hiking. They can’t get enough of some tough terrain and climbing peaks. Over the years, they have rafted the the Middle Fork Flathead, Middle Fork Salmon, Bruneau and Tatshenshini. They also traveled to New Zealand with us in 1998.
Peggy O’Shea was a friend of a friend who fit right into our world of wilderness and rivers, a life long friendship was formed. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. so very much appreciates the natural world of wildlife and wilderness. She credits WRO for introducing her to a new way of thinking. She loves every aspect of the trips…the adventure, the challenges, the WRO family. She followed a dream to Italy and new experiences. A few years later she return to the United States and the rivers of the west. She has rafted the Tatshenshini, the Middle Flathead 3 times, both the Main and Middle Fork Salmon and the Owyhee River. Peggy also ran the infamous Bio Bio River in Chile and well as trying out some ski touring trips.
Bill Bush is a Houston, Texas man who started running trips with us in 1990 but it wasn’t long before he wanted to start bringing his own boat. You might say he likes the thrill of it all. He loves his time on the river with his good buddy, Hoyle and his children. River running seems to run in his family. Beau ran trips with us several summers and Rosemary also rowed her own boat on several occasions. Bill has run many a trip with WRO, mostly in his own raft. He has rafted the Jarbidge/Bruneau, the Middle Fork Flathead, the South Fork Flathead, Middle Fork Salmon, and the Alsek River.
Gordon Bare always joins WRO as a kayaker. He is a long time kayaker and all he really needs is a raft to carry his gear. We first met Gordon on the Upper Alsek. On one long day on the Alsek, Gordon could not be talked into taking a break and riding on the rafts, a die hard kayaker. He paddled the Alsek from start to finish in his kayak, pretty impressive! Gordon next showed in the Flathead region for a Middle Fork trip. The rapids of Spruce Park provided him with excitement, but he handled them well. Gordon also ventured into the upper Owyhee country, always a place for adventure! Other kayaker friends Paul and Mac also joined him for his trip on the Owyhee. Gordon has also added the Middle Fork and Main Salmon to his list.
Marcy St. John has been coming on river trip with WRO since the beginning. She covers her Grand Slam requirement with many Middle Fork and Main Salmon trip, both Middle Fork and South Fork Flathead, Tatshenshini, both Owyhee and Jarbidge Bruneau. Marcy has eight Upper Owyhee trips, which is incredible with that river being so hard to predict water levels on the Upper section. She truly know why the Owyhee Canyonlands is such a special place for those who venture into this wild and remote region. Marcy has also been on international adventures with WRO in the past. Marcy is a great friend and member of the WRO family!
Joe and Sue Wilson have done every trip we offer, except the South Fork of the Flathead. Their most recent trip was the Upper Alsek in 2009. A pleasure to have along on any trip. Joe and Sue are always ready to jump in the paddle boat, and make a solid paddle crew. This couple has also done a Grand Canyon trip with WRO as well. Joe and Sue usually travel with their son Steve on many of their trips. Steve is only missing a Flathead trip in becoming a Grand Slammer himself. Steve often brings along his guitar which is great!