Go with the Flow

Hughes River Expeditions offers the ultimate river experience

It all began with the Boy Scouts. 

Colin Hughes, vice president and operations manager of Hughes River Expeditions (HRE), tells the story of his family’s business—one that spans back to his father’s scouting days. Jerry Hughes learned the art of whitewater rafting from Elwood Masoner, a whitewater pioneer. 

“Elwood was taking Scouts rafting before people were really doing that at all,” Colin explained. “In college, my dad got a job as a guide. He had the skill set that a lot of people didn’t have at that time.” 

Jerry and his wife, Carole, founded HRE in 1976. HRE guides groups on the Selway and Salmon rivers in Idaho with a season beginning in June and running through October. 

Colin grew up on the river, learning the ropes of rafting and the family business at a young age. 

“I grew up in in a small town of 300 people,” Colin said. “It was huge for me as a kid to be around such diverse groups of people on the river. That melting pot is one of the biggest advantages of these trips.” 

While rafting runs in his blood, Jerry and Carole told Colin he’d need to go to college before he could consider taking over the business. 

“I went to school, trying to find if something else would call out my name,” Colin explained. “But I found I was shaping everything I did to be able to guide trips in the summer.” 

The rafting business called loudest and Colin made his way back to HRE. 

“I love this business and the family culture. It becomes such a staple in your life, not only with our own crew but with other guides and companies within the industry,” Colin said. 

Most HRE trips are six-day, all-inclusive trips on the river, ranging from a more mellow trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon to the Class Four rapids of the Selway River. Colin said there’s an HRE trip for everyone, from age five to 85. 

“After six days being immersed on a river trip, you can really change your mindset,” Colin explained. “You might not turn into a thrill seeker but you’ll maybe realize you set too stringent of boundaries on yourself.” 

HRE trips are popular with families as well as corporate groups, suitable for a gamut of rafting experience. 

“Rafting doesn’t register for some people to do but I rarely see people regret taking these trips,” Colin said. “We have families who’ve been on 30-plus trips with us. We watch kids grow up. It’s really amazing to build personal, meaningful relationships with people we wouldn’t have met otherwise.” 

Colin hopes that the summer of 2020 will prop up local tourism, in light of COVID-19 and the subsequent cancellation of overseas travel for families and businesses alike. A river trip, he says, might be the perfect fit. 

“The river teaches valuable, organic lessons. You can reconnect with the natural part of being human when you’re on the water,” Colin explained. “It’s one of the few vacations that’s primitive enough to have limited cell phone service.” 

Plan a trip for your family!

Hughes River Expeditions



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