River-Based Adventures to suit just about anyone mild or wild, short or long, couples or large groups.

River-Based Adventures to suit just about anyone mild or wild, short or long, couples or large groups.


Fully Trained McKenzie River Guides

Aaron and Jonnie Helfrich

Owners and trip leaders, Aaron and Jonnie Helfrich, met in 1988 on a multi-day trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Five years later, they married. Four years after that, both kids were on the scene, and Jonnie would need to stay home in the summers to raise them. A Helfrich Outfitter LLC was born, because she couldn’t survive a summer without being on a river. Those two kids will soon be running the company.

Leah Helfrich

Born into the most prolific guide family on the McKenzie River, Leah has been on the water since before she was even born. As a fourth generation river guide, her life continually revolves around the river. She has been a whitewater rafting guide since age 16 and has also served as our gear boatman on multi-day trips. On both work and fun trips, she has enjoyed many rivers, including the McKenzie, Willamette, John Day, Rogue, and Middle Fork of the Salmon.
Leah has earned two degrees, a B.S. in Sociology, and an M.A. in Criminology and Criminal Justice. During the off-season, Leah substitute teaches in Lane County and serves as the shooting team coach for Marist Catholic High School her alma mater. When off the water and out of class, Leah enjoys shotgun sports, shooting pool, and country line and swing dancing.

Brian Ward

Brian went on his first canoe trip when he was five months old and has been hooked ever since. He has guided trips on the Deschutes, White Salmon, McKenzie and Clackamas Rivers.  Sharing his love of rivers with his rafting guests is the best part of being a river guide. He has taken his kayak down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and over 40 waterfalls including 102-foot Metlako Falls. He has taught swift water rescue classes, kayak roll sessions, and whitewater rafting.
Brian has a degree in Geography from the University of Oregon and currently works as an Educational Assistant during the school year. When he’s not on the river, he enjoys climbing mountains (he added Mt. Kilimanjaro to his summit list in 2013), skiing, biking, backpacking and running.

Nate Chesnut

Born and raised on the McKenzie River, Nate grew up with a passion for the water that led him to begin guiding professionally in 2012 after years of trips with family and friends. His personal connection to the river runs long; his first home was on the upper section and another was three houses down from Helfrich Landing. This combination of personal connection and enthusiasm for the outdoors allows Nate to share many unique stories and facts.
When not working on the river, Nate keeps himself busy running other rivers and as a drummer in bands. A fan of traveling, he has been to at least twelve countries and most of the states in the US. You are sure to have an exciting trip with this enthusiastic and experienced river rat.

Matt Estes

Matt is a second-generation river guide who grew up in the Willamette Valley. River water runs through his veins, feeding his passion for the river and leading to over 1000 guided trips down the McKenzie. This veteran guide has played on Oregon’s most challenging and popular rivers. He loves the outdoors and sharing the experience with everyone. His contagious smile and warm personality are matched only by his professional spirit. If Matt’s not boating or fishing, you can find him training in the gym, cooking in the kitchen, running the trails, skiing the slopes or foraging for mushrooms. Matt’s favorite saying? “A good day on the river is better than a great day anywhere else.”

Taylor Chocek

Taylor was born and raised in Huntington Beach, California and grew up a competitive surfer. After moving to Oregon and learning about river surfing, she was instantly hooked. Wanting to spend more time on the river, she began to white water paddle board and raft. She started on the Willamette River and has since been on 12 others in the western United States.
Taylor is currently a student at the University of Oregon studying Human Physiology and competes as a heptathlete for the Ducks’ track and field program. She can be found on the river all year long but also enjoys rock climbing, biking, and cliff jumping.
Her favorite part about being a guide is watching people turn their fear of the river into a life-long admiration. Her youth, love for the water, and enthusiasm is sure to make for a fun trip!

Kenny Hill

Kenny grew up in Oregon running rivers with his father who was a river guide and renowned wood boat builder. By the age of thirteen, he had conquered several rivers in his inflatable kayak and knew he wanted to guide someday. His favorite memories are on Idaho’s Middle Fork of the Salmon and Oregon’s Deschutes and McKenzie Rivers. In recent years, his focus has been running his drift boat and sharing his passion for fishing with his friends and family.

Kenny studied Forest Management at Central Oregon Community College in Bend Oregon and worked in the aviation industry selling safety equipment for nearly ten years before moving back to Springfield to be closer to his family and his home waters of the McKenzie River. He is looking forward to transitioning his drift boating skills to a raft and chasing thrills with guests this summer.

Toby Snyder

Toby has been on the water for as long as he can remember … always having loads of fun and looking forward to the next trip that his family would plan. He goes rafting or kayaking nearly every sunny weekend.
Toby has always been interested in rowing and over time learned how to row on the McKenzie, Willamette, Rogue and other rivers. Many summers were spent on multi-day rafting trips and even a few multi-day kayaking trips.
He has loved being outside his entire life and enjoys going camping and fishing on many of his free weekends. Toby has been a Scout since he was 5. Through that and his own family’s experiences, he has learned to love the outdoors and appreciate the nature that we live in.

Claire Stout

Claire’s passion for being on the water started with her mom, who taught her how to canoe where she grew up in Pennsylvania and would take her along to races. Eventually, they raced together.
She has been working on a vegetable farm along the McKenzie River for the last couple of years. Refreshing swimming holes in the McKenzie provided her with sweet relief from the summer heat. Claire has had the pleasure of working outdoors the past six years at ski areas and on organic farms.
When she’s not working, Claire enjoys spending time skiing, hiking, cooking, dog-sitting and traveling. This year, she is excited to put her water skills to work and guide those wishing to enjoy all the magic rivers have to offer. She is beyond excited to spend this season having fun on the beautiful McKenzie and Willamette Rivers.

Elijah Snyder

Elijah has been on many river trips on the John Day, Rogue, Deschutes, Willamette and McKenzie. He has lived in Springfield Oregon his whole life and grew up with the Willamette River in his backyard.
For more than five years, Elijah has been going on outdoor trips with his boy scout troop, and this year, he earned his Eagle badge. He also loves playing music on guitar and bass at his school and church. Elijah looks forward to sharing the wonderful Oregon rivers with the guests on our trips.

Valerie Thompson

Valerie attends the Art Institute of Chicago, where they’re studying Fine Arts with an emphasis on fabrication techniques. Valerie has been still-water kayaking for almost 10 years. Recently, they fell in love with inflatable white water kayaking on a multi-day trip on the Lower Salmon River.
Valerie grew up in Austin Texas where they would spend every chance outside. In the summers, they would spend almost every day, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, on or around Ladybird Lake. For two summers, they were an open boat kayak instructor for 1st through 8th graders.
Valerie also enjoys growing blue oyster mushrooms. For stress relief, they go on long walks and pick up trash. They are very excited to train and guide this season.

Noah Gallagher

Noah was born in Portland, Oregon and has also lived in Bend and Eugene. He has grown up in and around water, from canoeing in a baby seat attached to the boat to white water rafting on the Deschutes in the summers as he got older. Noah loves the outdoors and can be found at a swimming hole or exploring river spots just about every day it’s nice out.
Noah is a junior at the University of Oregon and loves meeting new people from all over the world. He’s extremely personable and is excited to meet tons of new people on the water this summer!

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