Jessica Gardner

Jessica Gardner

Jessica Guided from 2000 – 2015

How did you find yourself at Holiday?

A college friend had worked at Holiday the year before I arrived. He made it sound amazing and it is/was.

What years did you spend guiding?

 Too many or not enough.  I think around 15 full/part-time.

What is something you learned while at Holiday that has stuck with you and has been valuable to life beyond the river?

Before you drive somewhere far you should always clean your car inside and out, and check the tire pressure and oil. Also, you can make lasagna with tortillas or always be ready to switch and pull!

What is your favorite stretch of river that you have been on?

The Yampa.  It has everything. Free flowing river, flood plains with migrating cottonwood groves, beaches, rapids, hikes, hidden places, indigenous peoples history, a confluence, explorer history (J.W.Powell), amazing geology, amazing wildlife, amazing invertebrate life, basically it has everything!  

Jessica & Son, Sam

Jessica and Sam

Do you still do river trips?

Yes, my family tries to do at least one week-long trip a year and then day trips.

What do you miss most from guiding?

 Introducing people to these amazing places that can only be accessed by boat or foot and help them understand why we should protect them.

What was it that pulled you away from guiding?

 Starting a family.

What advice or sentiment would you share with young guides working today?

A day on any stretch river is much better than a day in the office.

Do you have a favorite memory of Dee? Sue? Tim?

 Dee and Sue –  When I finally got to run Warm Springs Rapid on the Yampa at 16,500 CFS, Dee and Sue were downstream, watching at Warm Springs campground unbeknownst to us, on a historical trip with a bunch of other river runners.  I had a sweet run and as I pulled into that camp to wait for the rest of the boats, Dee and Sue came out into the eddy with grins of pride on their faces and gave me a huge hug, and helped me celebrate.

Tim- well my entire time/career at Holiday but the best memory is when we had to winch the boats out at the takeout below Cataract.  It was the first time we had to do that, which made it fun.  We didn’t know if it would work or rip the d-rings off the boats.   Now they take boats out that way every trip off Cataract.

Jessica and husband getting married in the Grand Canyon

Getting Married in the Grand Canyon

What’s your most memorable story from a river trip?

This is the hardest question to answer.  I would have to say the women’s trip of 2003 down Cataract Canyon when the boat ramp at potash was below the 2000 CFS mark.  We had to use a motor, which is funny working for a proud non-motorized company, we were a little out of our element.  We had 25 women on the trip including 6 guides (the boat that held the motor was KV – our trainee lol) and a river that not a lot of people had navigated at that water level.  We got to row/motor through the backbone of the Colorado River through Meander Canyon and down through Cataract Canyon, it was long, hot, amazing, and so much fun.  It bonded us for life.  Working together, navigating an entirely new river, and still having the best time ever.  It was like those 25 women got to come to our party, we woke up laughing and went to bed laughing.  I love talking about this trip with my fellow guides that were on the trip, we laugh until our bellies hurt every time.

Do you have a story to share about a positive experience with a guest?

Well, I married a guest.  My husband of 13 years was a guest on a University of Utah field trip and he saw me at my saltiest (it was a low water year) and asked me out on a date in 2003. We now have an 8-year-old and still go boating as much as possible.  We are living the dream!


Group on the beach

Jessica with 5 of the Holiday alumni

Are you in touch with any guides you met during your time with Holiday?

 Yes,  there is a group of about 7 of us (all women) that get together yearly.  I do keep up with others but this core group of women are my rocks!

What are you up to these days?

I work for the University of Nevada Reno Extension in Douglas County Nevada as the Master Gardener Coordinator and other horticulture duties. I love to grow plants!

Where do you call home?

 Carson Valley, Nevada on paper but the Colorado plateau in my heart.

Sam on the oars

Sam on the Oars — looks like Jessica might be sucking it up!

Do you think you will ever be a river guide again?


Unfortunately no, at least full-time.  My wrists don’t like to row too many days in a row.  

Unless my son becomes one then I will have to suck it up.