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Offbeat Interview Series with Will

Will Stubblefield was born and raised in Tennessee. In kindergarten, he first experienced the excitement of whitewater while racing a canoe down the Mississippi River. The whitewater was actually just the wake and spray of other enthusiastic racers passing young Will as they left the start line. Nonetheless, he was hooked and eventually moved on to kayaks to sate his craving for whitewater excitement. While growing up and to this day, Will is most at home when in and around rivers; whether in a raft, canoe, or kayak, fishing, taking photos, or going for a swim with his dog Hank, Will is grateful to be near running water.

Sharing the river with others became an integral part of Will’s life after graduating from college in North Carolina. He moved to the banks of the Payette River in Idaho, where he spent summers guiding and honing his kayak technique. Off seasons were spent chasing rivers in India, Nepal, Peru, and British Columbia. Will started working for NOLS in 2012 and has led hundreds of students down rivers in the American West and India, teaching the importance of leadership and expedition behavior to creating successful river trips. Along the way, Will received a masters degree from University of Idaho where he focused on science communication, climate, and water resources. Will has been active in river conservation in Idaho and loves to share current issues and natural history with river guests. During the winter months, Will keeps a close eye on the snowpack while teaching avalanche courses and guiding backcountry skiing for American Avalanche Institute and Yostmark Backcountry Tours in the Tetons.

The Interview

In your guiding career (on or off river), what has been your favorite “woohoo!” moment?

Running a LARGE rapid on the Kali River in India. I was in the paddle raft with a team of students and we were able to lead the group into the rapid. The exciting part was that the rapid was newly formed from a massive landslide that had occurred only weeks earlier. All the new rock and earthen material made the rapid super intimidating and our team felt amazing when we safely reached the bottom!

In your guiding career (on or off river), what has been your most memorable “uhoh!” moment?

I was floating downstream below Barth Hot Springs on the Salmon River when I heard a loud “POW.” A boat had hit a rock sideways and the resulting tear in the rubber was about a foot and a half long. The fun part was getting to stitch the raft back together using a speedy stitcher and patches on a sandy beach. Although the raft continued to leak some air, we continued downstream. I loved the feeling of self-reliance that our group gained from making a successful field repair to a piece of essential gear.

What is your favorite dress-up theme?

I have some nice lederhosen that feel great in the cool evening on a river trip!

What intrigues you about working for Canyons?

I have shared the Salmon River and McCall, Idaho as a home base with the Canyons team during my time living in Idaho. I have always heard great things about the people at Canyons and admired the community I witnessed when passing a Canyons camp on the river. I’m excited to join this well rounded and tight knit crew and bring my experience to create amazing and inspirational river trips for everyone involved.

What are three words that describe you?

Reliable, laid-back, keen.

What is your favorite thing about the Middle Fork or Main Salmon?

I love the free-flowing river. It’s rare to find a river that you can spend two weeks floating in without encountering a dam or diversion, or one that maintains a wilderness character for that duration. It’s amazing that the Salmon River connects such wild landscapes and also people through recreation or living along its banks.

If you could be a river creature, which one and why?

Steelhead, Because it is a fish that held significant mystery and power in stories of my youth. I’m also astonished at their resilience, life history, and beauty.

If you could bring anyone on a river trip, who would it be and why?

My Dad, He introduced me to rivers and for that I’m forever grateful.

What is one of your river rituals or superstitions?

I often will splash water on my face and take a deep breath before running big rapids. I love the refreshing feeling of the cold clean river water against my skin on a hot day in the summer. It’s a fun ritual that reminds me to be grateful for the amazing place that I’m in and anchors me in the moment on the water.

What are your personal top 3 MUST HAVES on a river trip?

A sun hat, plenty of snacks, my camera.

Where is your favorite groover spot?

Any groover spot is a good groover spot, It’s enough to appreciate that you are living your life on a river.

What is the most important lesson the river has taught you so far?

Stay humble and keep moving downstream, but don’t forget to reflect on your journey.

About Katie Proctor

Katie's favorite thing is being out in the wild running rivers, climbing mountains and sleeping under the stars with her son, pup and partner Colin. She is a Mama, boatwoman, yoga instructor, massage therapist, writer, mountain biker and up-for-anything adventurer!

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