Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Dick Barker at the oars with son Eric Barker

My father, Dick Barker, died early in the morning on Monday, July 23rd.  He was truly one of the “Legends of the Snake”; he was the man who pioneered the 10 mile Deadman’s Bar to Moose float trip 50 years ago.  He started Barker-Ewing Float Trips with then partner Frank Ewing.  Even though he had long ago stopped guiding commercial floats down the river himself, he had still been able to take the oars in August of 2011 (at age 74) during the annual Snake River Funds “Legends” trip.  He was a true Master of the oars, and even pioneered a new channel during high water 2 years ago.  He had a talent for reading water like no-one else I have ever seen.  He will be greatly missed.

Dick Barker
March 16, 1937 – July 23, 2012

When he was away from the river, my father was also a folk singer, balladeer, and guitarist who co-founded the local Hootenanny with Bill Briggs in 1993.  As it happened, the evening that he passed was the annual Hootenenany at the Center for the Arts.  The Hootenanny Board was able to turn that evening’s performance into a fitting tribute for their “fallen” friend.  My brother, Eric Barker, took to the stage that evening… showing more courage and strength than I can imagine.  He sang one verse solo and then led the other performers into a group chorus of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”.

And that is the theme of this year for us at Barker-Ewing Float Trips.  It is true that we lost our beloved owner, leader and father.  But our family and crew are going to carry on the traditions that Dick started these many years ago.  We are unbroken.

The very first boatman hired by Barker-Ewing was Verne Huser.  He used to joke that he was the hyphen in the Barker-Ewing.  This year, our newest guide on the river here in the park is Verne’s son, Paul.  Paul has floated many different rivers over the years, and worked for the Ewing’s commercially on the whitewater section of the river.  It is so fitting that he was the last guide that Dad ever hired, and with this 50th year, the circle indeed is unbroken.    ~Leith Barker

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. Amy boog on August 15, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Words can’t describe the hole in my heart, not just for this loss but for the distance that keeps me from being with you all ( family and crew)…. I miss you all terribly and I am looking forward to September as I want to hug you leith and remember good times….. I will see you soon….until then my thoughts are truly with you everyday. —– Amy

  2. bailee on August 18, 2012 at 2:14 am

    leith, that was a beautiful article you wrote for your dad. i bet you,re surprised to find me replying, aloha bailee

  3. Amy McReynolds on September 12, 2012 at 6:54 am

    A beautiful tribute! Neighbor Amy

  4. Ryan Bell on February 26, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Hi Leith, great tribute to your dad. My family also lost our father/leader a few years ago…we’ve carried on our family rafting business now for 40 years, starting in 1973 on the Truckee River in Tahoe City, CA. Our “circle” continues, stronger from his high standards and leadership. Take care, Ryan

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