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River guide for Canyons Spencer Roth

Offbeat interview series with Spencer

Spencer ‘WooWoo’ Roth


Born in Colorado, Spencer spent his early years in Evergreen, CO camping, exploring and skiing with his younger brother and parents. In 1981 his mom moved him and his brother to Dana Point, CA where he fell in love with recreation via water sports, especially surfing. In fact, you could see the ocean from his high school. As a teenager, Spencer attended a number of Outward Bound courses, which fostered a college career goal of becoming an outdoor leader. Post high school, Spencer attended UC Santa Cruz where he studied Biology and environmental studies. Indulging his inner hippy nature, he lived in a treehouse while aspiring to be an outdoor leader through the UCSC recreation center. For several years Spencer worked as a director of the wilderness orientation program for UCSC.

After graduating from UCSC Spencer got a job working as an Outward Bound guide, thus completing the circle. He ended up working for Outward Bound for 8 years. While still completely in love with sharing the outdoors with people, Spencer realized that he needed to make more money. So for 6 years, he pursued medical school but, was ultimately drawn back to the outdoors and finally to river guiding.

Spencer’s first love has always been skiing. Given the gift of skiing from a young age, he has always been drawn back to it. Currently, he spends his winters in Breckenridge, CO where he skis by day and works by night. A ski connection ultimately connected him to the river guiding world. A good friend encouraged him to try daily rafting trips on the upper Colorado River out of Frazier. Through this organization, he met Greg McFadden (now the owner of Canyons, then a guide for Canyons) in 1995. They became fast friends and in 2000 Greg invited Spencer on a Main Salmon trip with Canyons. Spencer fell in love. He began kayaking and rafting and generally recreating on the river. After many years of cameo appearances, in 2015 Spencer became a full-time guide for Team Canyons. River guiding provided Spencer with a financially viable job that also allowed him to share his love of the outdoors with people.

Currently, Spencer is transitioning into guiding in the Grand Canyon where he is excited to be part of a larger boating community. He is incredibly grateful for his charmed life and very aware of how special it is. Spencer will never stop loving the magic of the river and the ability to share it with people.

The Interview

If you could be a river superhero, what would you be?   Aquaman. I love the mystical God Neptune morphed into a hero.

What is your favorite dress up theme?   Somehow I feel like it usually comes down to cross-dressing at the end of the night. I think the super-hero theme could be fun with the right costume bag!

What is your ‘go-to’ crazy hat night creation?   River rock crown using gorilla tape. 

What brought you to Canyons?   I’ve been friends with Greg (owner) for 20 years. He brought me up in
2000 and 2001 and that planted the bug. I love the guide community Canyons brings together.
Experience, love, support and a commitment to always becoming a better guide and person.

How many years have you worked here?   5 full time with a sprinkling of cameo appearances over the past 20 years.

What is your favorite thing about Canyons?   Our guide family and exceptional guests!

If you could describe Canyons in 3 words?   Wonderlust, rich experience, FUN

When you hear the word Idaho, what comes to mind?   Water, deep wilderness, small aircraft!

What are your top three favorite camps?   Ground Hog, State Land Right, Little Soldier

Your favorite hike?   Moon Rock above Trail camp

Top three favorite rapids?   Weber, Split Rock, Powerhouse  

Currently, what is your nemesis rapid?   The Chutes and Pistol

What river do you want to run that you haven’t yet?  Illinois River in SW Oregon  

What do you consider a ‘real’ job?   Working for Canyons, creating real experiences that can change one’s life

If you could only have one kayak in your quiver, what would it be and why?   Right now I like the higher volume stable boats for rescue. Loving the Zet Toro at the moment. I still rock my Dagger Rx if the surfs up!

What is your favorite thing to cook on the river?   Anything on the grill or in a dutch. Love cooking on fire!

If you could take a musician or band down the river today, who would it be?   Shakey Graves would be my choice. A one-man band!

What is your most memorable swim in a river?   Troublemaker on the South Fork of the American River. A classic window shade experience into a rocky swim and my drain plug wasn’t screwed in. Never have made that
mistake again!

What is one of your river rituals or superstitions?   Always stay humble. I always breathe and watch my posture before whitewater.

What is the most valued non-river-related item that you bring with you on every trip?   My pocket Buddha

What is your favorite groover spot?   State Land Right

About Greg McFadden

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