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Jen Cook Canyons guide Idaho Salmon River

Offbeat Interview Series with Jen

Jen ‘Scoop’ Cook


Jen loves rivers and loves rafting. It all started when her parents took her rafting on the Kern River in California when she was 21 She was hooked. Jen attended a guide school in 2006 and has been rafting ever since trying to get on as many rivers as possible. Rafting has been her “gateway activity” to many other outdoor passions such as skiing, kayaking, rock climbing, and mountain biking. In 2013, Jen joined the USA women’s raft racing team, which opened the door to find six of her best girlfriends and lead her to compete on rivers around the world.  

Jen moved to Idaho in 2015 to attend nursing school through Boise State University. She found herself craving to explore Idaho rivers in the summer and in turn, found Canyons River Company. Chasing rivers in places like California, Arizona, and Colorado, Jen met some amazing people who happened to also be guides for Canyons River Company. After talking with the Canyons owner and outfitter, Greg McFadden, she felt like family immediately and knew that she wanted to be a part of Team Canyons.

In her own words: “The best thing about rivers, are the people you meet. And then you meet them again on other rivers in other states or other countries. Canyons has reconnected me with friends, whom I have guided with over the years in California, Colorado, Arizona, and Chile. It is great to find a company and a river to call home.”    

The Interview

If you could be a river superhero, what would you be?   Everyone becomes a river superhero when we all put on our PFD’s and helmets and step into our rafts, duckies or kayaks!  However, I would want my river superpower to be able to single-handedly unstick the Canyons sweep boat off of rocks, secretly turn into a river otter, and successfully execute a kayak roll every time! 

What is your favorite dress up theme?   Disco and glitter. 

What is your ‘go-to’ crazy hat night creation?   Any hat! As long as it has an awesome wig underneath, preferably a pink wig. 

What brought you to Canyons?   For years, I listened to a dear friend of mine and fellow Canyons guide, Kelli O’Keefe, talk about these awesome adventures and good times she had been having with this so-called  “Team Canyons”. Finally having moved to Idaho, I was able to get hired and experience this amazing company that I always hoped to be a part of! 

How many years have you worked here?   I have worked for Canyons for one awesome season (2019) and am looking forward to another one. 

What is your favorite thing about Canyons?   Too many to list, but my top 3 are my fellow guides and canyons staff, the food (especially Stacy Cakes) and being Mama Duck on the river with our rainbow duckie fleet.  

If you could describe Canyons in 3 words?   Inclusive, colorful and avocados. 

When you hear the word Idaho, what comes to mind?   When I hear the word Idaho, images that come to mind are of course wild and scenic! I have made Boise my home for the past 4 years and have been slowly growing roots throughout Idaho. It has been wonderful to explore the Frank Church Wilderness while rafting down the Salmon rivers and also making great friendships along the way.  

What are your top three favorite camps?   Elkhorn Bar Camp and Lower Grouse Camp on the Middle Fork & California Beach on the Main Salmon.

Your favorite hike?   I enjoy hiking up any creek drainage coming into the Salmon rivers particularly Loon and Camas Creeks on the Middle Fork & Bargamin Creek on the Main Salmon. 

Top three favorite rapids?   Top three favorite rapids would be Velvet Falls and the Tappan Rapids on the Middle Fork & Black Creek Rapid on the Main Salmon. 

Currently, what is your nemesis rapid?   Devil’s Tooth Rapid on the Middle Fork of the Salmon. 

What river do you want to run that you haven’t yet?   I would love to run the Zambezi River in Africa before a dam is constructed.

What do you consider a ‘real’ job?   A “real” job is whatever job allows you to do what you love, whether it is while you are at work or those days off from work. 

If you could only have one kayak in your quiver, what would it be and why?   With my intermediate and progressing kayaking skill, I love my Jackson Zen that I am currently paddling, however my goal this summer is to hop into a playboat and learn how to surf! 

What is your favorite thing to cook on the river?   Tiramisu and COFFEE

If you could take a musician or band down the river today, who would it be?   Lizzo or The Rolling Stones

What is your most memorable swim in a river?   Clavey Falls on the Tuolumne River in California. It was the deepest and darkest swim ever. I was happy to see the light and come up for air. 

What is one of your river rituals or superstitions?   I always put a little bit of river water on the back of my neck before entering a big rapid. 

What is your most-valued non-river-related item that you bring with you on every trip?   My most valued non-river related item would be my coffee cup and lavender essential oil. 

What is your favorite groover spot?   Marble Left, or any groover spot above a rapid. It really speeds up the morning line wait time. 

About Greg McFadden

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