Rafting Pioneer Dick Barker Dies at 75

Barker-Ewing, Rafting

Dick Barker

on Monday, July 23, our beloved owner and founder of Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips passed away.  Many thanks to Jim and jhunderground.com for sharing this post …

July 23, 2012 ~ Dick Barker, the river guide and musician who built one of the most successful rafting businesses in Jackson Hole, died this morning at his home in Moose, after battling cancer for several years. He was 75 years old.

Originally from Ohio, Barker began spending his summers at his grandparents’ house on Ditch Creek as a boy. He learned to fly fish from his mother and stepfather, Joe Beerkle, and started guiding for Carmichael’s Tackle Shop in Moose in 1956.

In 1963, he and his wife, Barb, started their own float trip company, just as Frank and Patty Ewing went into business. The two families became partners in 1965, and Barker-Ewing grew to become synonymous with scenic and whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole.

Even in recent years Barker remained involved in the running of his business; he was the first person to grab the tools when trailer lights broke or something else needed fixing. This is the company’s 50th summer in Grand Teton National Park.

Although he had been undergoing chemotherapy the last two years, Barker’s health took a turn for the worse this spring, after he and Barb returned from a 50th wedding anniversary trip to Ireland. Infection and pneumonia landed him in the hospital. He came home to spend his final days beside Blacktail Butte, surrounded by family, a steady stream of visitors and the river he so loved.

With his passing, we have lost an encyclopedic memory of the history of Snake River rafting and, more broadly, Jackson Hole.

I’ll have more to write about Dick in the coming days. Until then, the trips must go on, as Dick would have wanted.

~ Jim Stanford, Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips river guide

Keeping Perspective – thank you, George Schaller

Environment, History

George Schaller float trip

Everything seems so busy in July.  Tourists trying to soak in all that Grand Teton National Park has to offer, whether they have 3 hours or 3 days.  Road construction delays, testing everyone’s sense of patience and relaxation.  The sun is intense, the weather dry, with an occasional dynamic thunderstorm for dramatic effect.

And then someone like George Schaller comes along and wants to float down the Snake River.

If you don’t know who George Schaller is, just read the article in this week’s Jackson Hole News and Guide and imagine yourself, at 23, walking up to Olaus Murie and asking “hey, can I be a volunteer assistant on your expedition to Alaska?”  And don’t forget to imagine yourself in 1956.  No neoprene, or gortex gear to keep you comfortable, and no mp3 or idevice to keep you entertained.

Schaller’s conservation passion wasn’t limited to Alaska and the creation of the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge.  Central Africa, Tanzania, Nepal, Brazil, and China were just a few of the place where he worked, and advocated for conservation.  Mountain gorillas, mountain lions, snow leopards, jaguars, and panda bears have all been blessed by Schaller’s efforts. Add THAT to your resume!

And yet, when he joined Barker-Ewing for a scenic float through Grand Teton National Park, if you didn’t know what he looked like, you’d never know you were in the presence of greatness.  Such a kind and quiet individual.  Just like Mardy Murie. Jane Goodall (is there a pattern here?)

Thank you for the visit, George Schaller.  You reminded us why what we do IS so important–keeping the sense of wonder alive.  Congratulations on the Spirit of Conservation Award; it is more than well-earned, and deserved!


Established in 1963, Barker-Ewing Float Trips has been sharing the beauty and wonder of Grand Teton National Park with visitors from around the world for 50 years, floating beneath the Grand Tetons on the headwaters of the Snake River.