Our Legend of the Snake…Dick Barker

This Friday afternoon, the Snake River Fund will be bringing the 5th annual “Legends of the Snake” float trip to Grand Teton National Park.  Our owner and founder, Dick Barker, will be a part of this float, as will co-founder Frank Ewing.  This provides me with a great opportunity to give a brief (hopefully) history of Barker-Ewing Float Trips.

Although technically not a Jackson Hole Native, Dick has spent every summer of his life (since he was a yearling) here in Moose, WY.  There were a couple of winters thrown in here and there, and by 1955 Moose had become his permanent residence.  He first floated on the Snake River in 1946 with his step-father, who was a fishing guide.  In 1956, he became a fishing guide himself working for Bob Carmichael after having purchased his first boat… an Air Force survival raft from a military surplus store in Ogden, UT.

While he was working behind the counter at Carmichael’s Tackle Shop, in between guiding fishermen down the river, he would have the occasional “odd request”,  some people would ask if they could hire him to take them down the river… WITHOUT a fishing pole (“Do we HAVE to fish?”)!  Although he initially thought those poor people were crazy, the requests continued to come in.  By the winter of 1962, he became one of the “crazy” people (if you can’t beat them… join them!), and the following spring he started up his own scenic float trips.

Dick Barker’s Snake River Float Trips were the first scenic trips to launch at Deadman’s Bar and float to Moose, a trip which he pioneered.  Adults were $7.50 and children $5.00!  That same season, Frank Ewing (who had been a river guide on the pontoon rafts operated by the Grand Teton Lodge Company) saw the merits of having his own company, and started taking his military surplus raft from Pacific Creek to Moose for small individual parties.  They became friendly competitors, and whenever one was booked up, he would refer passengers to the other.

In 1967, Dick and Frank went in together and purchased a third raft, (and trailer and Land Rover), and Barker-Ewing was born!  They hired Verne Huser (former Lodge Company boatman, seasonal Park Ranger… and former roommate of Frank’s!) as the first B-E guide (although for a short time Dick and Frank both continued to run their own trips… so Verne WAS Barker-Ewing initially)!  Barker-Ewing grew rapidly and  in 1972 started running whitewater trips in the Snake River Canyon south of Jackson.    The whitewater portion of the company was run out of the Ewing’s home up Cache Creek Canyon in Jackson, while the scenic floats continued to be run out of Dick’s childhood home in Moose.

Although the partners decided to split up during the winter of 1984/85, they both continue to run their portion of the river under the Barker-Ewing name.  Frank is mostly retired now, with his daughter Heather at the helm, but Dick still runs operations here in Moose (although no longer at the oars!).  He is one of the Legends of the Snake… and he is also my father.  I am so very proud of him!!

Leith Barker

Barker-Ewing’s Girl Friday


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 over 40 years, floating beneath the Grand Tetons on the headwaters of the Snake River.


About Barker-Ewing Float Trips

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 over 40 years. Wild nature surrounds you on these river rafting trips, floating beneath the Grand Tetons in an area untouched by human development for generations. Our professional boatmen provide a depth of experience to make every trip special on this protected section of the Snake River.


  1. bailee on September 4, 2012 at 12:20 am

    leith, just read this article . you are a beautiful writer love bailee

    • Leith Barker on September 4, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Thanks, Bailee. I certainly miss him, and I know you do too.

      • Melinda Mills on March 2, 2022 at 8:55 pm

        Hi Leith
        We last saw each other when you were three. I worked with your dad and family in the summer of 1962. I did a little of everything, booking trips, driving, taking care of you and Eric and anything else that needed doing. It was your dad’s second year running float trips. It was a great summer for me

  2. Steve Murdock on October 7, 2021 at 7:19 pm

    I was a guide for Dick and Frank for four years: 1976-1980. Dick was my mentor a man I truly respected and admired. Fantastic organizer, who created the most wonderful rafts and a unique and professional business. It was an honor to have worked with and for him and the Barker family! I was shocked and saddened by his passing, but my memories of him and my time on the river will stay with me forever. Hope to see you again, Dick!

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