For Jon Wilmot, it’s all about helping folks have a good time. If you find yourself sitting on a land-stranded kayak waiting out a thunderstorm, he’ll be the one cracking the jokes.
Wilmot owns and operates the Spokane outfitter and guide company FLOW Adventures. With Wilmot or one of his FLOW Adventures guides, you can raft or kayak the whitewater rapids of the Spokane River or Salmon River, rent tubes for floating the Spokane in style, and more.
“My overall goal is to create memories for people in the outdoors. If you can create lasting memories, people are much more likely to protect the natural resources that we have,” says Wilmot.
Wilmot grew up in Cheney, traveled around a bit, and settled in Spokane, a city he loves in part because of the wild but accessible river that churns through downtown. By now Wilmot knows the ins and outs—where a beginner might try paddleboarding and where the class II and III rapids begin. This summer will be Wilmot’s twentieth year on the river.
“I just love the water. Period,” says Wilmot. He admits, however, that his dirty pleasure is trail running. It’s part of what makes Spokane such a great place for Wilmot and FLOW Adventures—he doesn’t have to choose between Class III rapids and running a marathon distance on trails.
Wilmot worked as the rental coordinator at EPIC at Eastern Washington University, and has a degree in recreation, but for him it’s always been about something more fundamental.
“I’ve always liked to tinker. I love to play with equipment. I like to modify gear and repair it and give it a go,” says Wilmot.
He started FLOW Adventures with his wife Jeanie in 2005, and has been tinkering to create great adventures for people ever since. Wilmot says there are two elements that make for a good guide: clear knowledge of client expectation and a sense of humor.
“There are those experiences when you get caught in Mother Nature, or the van breaks down, where you have no control over it. That can ruin someone’s trip. A good guide who has some humor can see the moment and paint the canvas for the client that they’re still having a good time,” says Wilmot.
Some of Wilmot’s favorite adventures are when Mother Nature is on clear and powerful display. He once led a group on an autumn hike on the Pacific Coast. He prepared to move to higher ground when he saw a large squall coming in from the Pacific Ocean. The storm pulled in about a mile off the coast and just sat, says Wilmot. His group watched the lightning storm throw a magnificent tantrum.
In the spring, Wilmot checks the weather often. He pays close attention to the water spike from spring melt. He knows the best time of year to catch Class III rapids, and the best time for a leisurely float. The variety of the Spokane River is one of its great characteristics.
Through adventuring, Wilmot hopes people will love the river as much as he does so they care about preserving it, too. “I want my great-grandkids to be able to float the Spokane River, and I want there to be enough water in it for them to do so,” says Wilmot.
One of Wilmot’s most gratifying tours has been helping a longtime Spokane resident learn to kayak. “She’d always been told to stay away from the river, and she was like, ‘I can’t believe this is down here. I’ve lived here sixty years and I’ve never been down here,’” he says.
You can call Wilmot at FLOW Adventures to book a customizable river adventure or take advantage of a self-guided float. Wilmot says no matter your method of getting on the water, you should buy a personal floatation device that’s comfortable enough that you’ll wear it.
Feature photo: Jaimz Skok in the Bowl & Pitcher. // Tanner Anderson
Originally published in the the May 2018 print edition of of Out There Outdoors under the title “Adventure with FLOW.”
Lisa Laughlin is a contributor and digital editor for Out There Outdoors.