What does it take for a new company to take a stand in the midst of a dozen well-established competitors?
According to Wild West Voyages co-owner Kathryn Blitz, her business is meeting its modest projections this first season of operation. Not only that, but Blitz says the river adventure company is looking to expand its offerings.
“We are a boutique company, and it allows us to customize things,” Blitz says. “We can take smaller groups and give people exactly what they want.”
When guests arrive to the office conveniently located at 446 S. Main St. across from City Market, they enter into the air-conditioned Wild West Voyages “General Store,” where friendly staff members greet them.
“I like the term, ‘general store,’” Blitz says. “It seems like (it’s) ‘wild westy.’”
The general store is full of basic-need items, gear and equipment for rent, and souvenirs and clothing from local vendors.
Kim Kelly is one of several guides for Wild West Voyages, who sizes guests up for life jackets and briefs them on the day ahead.
On a recent day, one family of five – including three preteens – confirms their sandwich preferences for the upcoming riverside picnic. Kelly informs them that water guns may or may not be hidden somewhere on the raft.
Without any further hesitation, the family loads up into a cooled-off van, which is noticeable in the 100-degree weather outside.
“I know it can be difficult to staff in seasonal work in Moab, and I think we are blessed to have such knowledgeable, professional and passionate guides,” Blitz says. “Everything is very intentional for our guests’ needs, and I think they can see that in our staff.”
Wild West Voyages is currently running the section of the Colorado River known locally as “the Daily,” and has just started offering overnight trips. The specific trip depends on the wants and needs of the guest.
Wild West Voyages runs oar rigs, paddleboats, inflatable kayaks and stand-up paddle boards (SUPs). It also offers rentals, and shuttle or delivery services. Through Monday, July 25, Wild West Voyages is offering a sale on “top-of-the-line” Hala SUP boards.
Blitz informs guests that National Geographic lists their route east on state Route 128 along the Colorado River as the second most beautiful highway in America. She waves to the passing traffic of familiar drivers from other local river companies.
“We try not to contribute to the crowding boat ramps,” Blitz says. “It gives our guests more space and personal interaction.”
Blitz was a high school Spanish teacher in Denver before moving to Moab in the spring of 2015. Three years earlier, she met her partner and co-owner, Jon McKay, on a river trip on the Gates of Lodore section of the Green River. The two of them decided to give it a go at making river life a commercial endeavor. Blitz’s daughter, Jessie, grew up running the river and is currently guiding for Wild West Voyages as well.
Blitz says that she herself guides river trips two to three times a week.
“The last thing I want to say is that I’m too busy to do what I love,” she said. “I want to stay in touch with what’s going on out there — the river’s moods.”
Blitz drops off the family of five to wait in the shade at the Onion Creek put-in, while Kelly readies the boat for takeoff.
“I’ll be at the take-out at 4:15,” Blitz says as she departs. “But take your time. Have the kind of day you want to have.”
Kelly thanks her, and directs a day consisting of a relaxed float, moments of excitement through rapids, a water gun fight, and an impressive lunch package from Village Market. Fortunately, a variety of snacks is included, as one of the family members proves to be a picky eater.
TripAdvisor reviews of Wild West Voyages thematically touch on the appreciation for the quality food and diverse snacks. Another theme is the level of intimacy. Blitz recalls enjoying a recent trip with several teachers from Shanghai. In turn, the ladies left a glowing review on TripAdvisor.
“The whole day felt very special and un-corporate, as if we were just out on the boat with a friend. We did the full-day adventure and time flew by as we splashed in the rapids and swam in the calms,” Bethany M. wrote.
This feels true with the family of five as well, as Kelly commands the rig in the style of a “stern-assist.” Kelly controls the boat with oars, but the family becomes involved in paddling to achieve speed or to help navigate the rapids. It seems apparent that the guests are comfortable as their family dynamic pours over into their river adventure.
“I’m just mad I didn’t find this work sooner,” Kelly says. “You get to see the good side of people.”
River runners find their dream job with Wild West Voyages
“I’m just mad I didn’t find this work sooner … You get to see the good side of people.”
For more information, call Wild West Voyages at 435-355-0776, or go to www.wildwestvoyages.com.