Whitewater Rafting: The Original Ecotour 

By Maia DeGaetano 

Cover photo courtesy of Row Adventure

As adventurers of the great Northwest, we recognize the imperative to embrace ecotourism as a way of life—a commitment to exploring our planet responsibly while safeguarding its irreplaceable wonders. As we venture forth into the realm of eco-conscious travel, one adventure stands out as a beacon of sustainable travel: rafting.  

Long before “ecotourism” became a buzzword, the rhythmic pulse of the river and the silent glide of the raft epitomized the harmony between human endeavor and natural preservation. This human-powered activity uses strictly non-motorized rafts, eliminating pollution in free-flowing waterways. It’s a quiet and non-intrusive means of adventure travel, with only the sounds of the natural world and your river guide calling “All Forward!” as your soundtrack.  

Courtesy of Row Adventures

Since its inception in 1979, ROW Adventures has championed the spirit of whitewater rafting not merely as a thrill-seeking escapade, but as a testament to a commitment to conservation and connection. ROW’s trips reflect the high standards of stewardship that rafting upholds, both as a recreational and commercial activity. These journeys unfold along the banks of rivers steeped in history, where the presence of Indigenous cultures run as wide as the river.  

At the heart of all river-running ethos lies the practices of Leave No Trace; designed to minimize the impacts of visiting fragile outdoor ecosystems. Whether it’s plastic wrappers or food waste, whatever goes on a river run comes off the river. Since 1974, rafters have been carrying containers to properly dispose of and carry out human waste, which would otherwise contribute to the environmental degradation of riverine environments. Minimizing impact on environments traveled has been at the forefront of good rafting practices for over 50 years.  

Courtesy Row Adventures

To further discovery on the river, many rafting trips include engaging and educational discussions, drawing on the experience and knowledge of local guides and communities. These focus on river ecology, native wildlife, wildfire management, geology, and the area’s Indigenous communities, as well as the human impacts on our river environments. By fostering dialogue and hands-on experiences centered around river-related issues, rafting with ROW promotes environmental awareness and give travelers the tools they need to take their conservation efforts home.  

Many rafting outfitters also collaborate with local conservation organizations to engage the general public in river advocacy initiatives. This may be through donations, sponsorships, or even hands-on clean-up events. ROW Adventures is actively involved with several conservation groups operating in the areas the company travels, including the Rogue Riverkeepers, the Native Fish Society, and Idaho Rivers United.  

Courtesy Row Adventures

As an adventure-filled and sustainable way to travel, rafting has an everlasting and enduring appeal as ecotourism. So, dear travelers, as you contemplate your next odyssey into the heart of the wild, remember the humble raft as more than a vessel of exploration—it is a symbol of our collective responsibility to protect and preserve the wonders that define our great outdoors. 

Originally from Seattle, Maia grew up trail blazing, fishing, climbing, and seeking new heights in the Cascade mountains. She carries her love for the outdoors into her writing and professional work as the content coordinator for ROW Adventures.  

Share this Post

Scroll to Top