River Conditions

WhiteWater Voyages Media Articles

June 27, 1979
San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle

Plunging into a career

By By Dick Alexander
Examiner Travel Writer

When Bill McGinnis was a boy in the East Bay he walked the ditches when it rained, instead of the sidewalks.

There's nothing particularly unique about that. We've all done it, I guess, sometimes getting swatted for having wet feet - or tracking mud into the house.

With us it was grimy kid stuff. With McGinnis it was a fascination that took him past swollen ditches and rising creeks to whitewaters of the West and eventually a career in running rivers around the world.

Next Sunday, he and a group of some 20 adventuresome souls will meet in the Ritz Hotel in Oslo for a 13-day McGinnis led whitewater excursion of Norwegien rivers - rivers, he says, that are "unsurpassed in Europe or anywhere else for sheer, heart-thumping excitement."

A student of English literature with a Masters in English from San Francisco State, McGinnis - in his Norwegian Odyssey brochure - describes the adventure as:

A headlong plunge into the luxuriant, vertical land of fjords and waterfalls of lovely, honest people and pure dazzling whitewater past lakes and cataracts and over wind-swept mountain plateaus swaddled in glaciers and perpetual snow.into a tight, winding, wild crack between snow-capped mountain nassufs.where we navigate one wild, plunging river after another.

Born in Richmond 32 years ago, McGinnis graduated from mud puddles and at 17 worked as a river guide, running rivers in Arizona, Idaho and British Columbia, always seeking out rivers of greater challenge. He found a career in whitewater rafting, which grew, he recalls, "in ways I never anticipated."

This evolved into a business he calls Whitewater Voyages/River Exploration Ltd. based in El Cerrito.

In 1975, McGinnis authored a book "Whitewater Rafting" New York Times Quadrangle, $12.50, a guide to more than 30 of the best river runs in the U.S. The book follows each run from its inception to its end, pinpointing danger spots along the way.

Articulate as well as enthusiastic, McGinnis describes his business as: "A small outfit offering a broad range of river voyages. With us, one can experience everything from one- and two-day trips near San Francisco to extended expeditions on other continents, everything from the refreshing dip to the deep immersion."

Whitewater Voyages uses rugged, inflatable 12- and 15-foot -- "compartmented and unsinkable" -- paddle boats with six to eight people plus a guide in each.

McGinnis' 1979 schedule of itineraries lists three, four- and five-day voyages by inflatable kayak in the Stanislaus, Merced, Klamath and American rivers in California and Oregon, a Rio Grande/New Year expedition, British Columbia, Turkey, Russia and Scandinavia voyages, in addition to the Norwegian Odyssey, which he says is being assisted by the American River Touring Association, a non-profit educational organization based in Oakland.

McGinnis says he works "April through September, but there's a lot of preparation  a lot of off-river business involved.

"We have some fantastic rivers lined up -- some we've never run before. The French Alps, French Pyrenees and Spanish Pyrenees -- some are really great."

Cost of the June 24-to-July 6 Norwegian river trip is $1,522 (plus U.S.-Oslo round-trip airfare of approximately $800). No visas are required and "we help arrange airfare," McGinnis adds.

From Oslo, the group goes by train to Myrdal to Flam for overnighting at the Flam Hotel, by boat along the Aurlandsfjord and Sognefjord to Laerdal, by van to Tisleia camp and the first four rivers. Taking a brief interlude from rafting, the voyagers will then hike into Jotunheimen, "the home of the giants," relax for two days beside Lake Gjende, explore a glacier and go on to other rivers, ending up in Oslo.

"The entire journey is suitable to people without a real athletic commitment to rafting," says McGinnis, who has scheduled the Norway expedition again for 1980, from June 22 to July 4.

The Norwegian trip, McGinnis says, "is a special experience. I find the people not only weathly in goods, but also in spirit. And there's a tremendous awareness (among them) of the need to conserve."

For additional information, contact McGinnis at: Whitewater Voyages.com

Three tours are being offered in Peru this fall and summer by guides John and Cherl Tichenor, in conjunction with the American River Touring Association. They are:

A 22-day Apurimac-Vilcababa Exploration, combining plane, train, rafting, hiking and trucking into the Peruvian wilderness, a 10-day tour for hikers and rafters along the train to Machu Picchu, and a 15-day tour of the "Amazon headwaters," combining visits to ruins, jungles and sights of Lima.

The tours generally run now through October. ARTA is also offering package and non-package river trips this winter in New Zealand. For additional information, contact American River Touring Association, 1307 Harrison St., Oakland Calif. 94612 (phone 465-9355).



© 1979 San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle.

 

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