Heather Ewing: Barker-Ewing Whitewater (Jackson, WY)
Heather Ewing has guided rivers everywhere from Alaska to Costa Rica, which is no surprise considering she was born into Jackson Hole's first family of whitewater rafting: Barker-Ewing. Her father Frank Ewing met fellow rafting enthusiast Dick Barker while working at the Grand Teton Lodge Company in the late 50s. At the advice of their wives, the two men combined their passion for the Snake River and launched Barker-Ewing in 1963. The men guided; the women cooked and drove shuttle. "They were the first," says Ewing. "A true mom and pop operation in Grand Teton National Park. Remember, back then, river rafting relied on old army surplus materials — it wasn't even its own industry."
In 1984, the two families parted ways, each retaining the Barker-Ewing name as homage to their original partnership, and the major strides they'd made legitimizing the sport. Today, Heather Ewing heads up her family's portion of the business, Barker-Ewing Whitewater, offering guests a chance to run rapids or float the Snake River. Both her parents still reside in Jackson, although Ewing says they're no longer involved in the day-to-day operations. "But it's like the mafia," she says. "Once you're in, you're always in." Employees with 25-year tenures are not uncommon. "They're all part of the family," Ewing says.