Born in 1966 out of a love for wilderness, adventure, and the rush that comes from running whitewater, Holiday River Expeditions was one of the early pioneers that helped forge today’s rafting industry.  A half-century of fun later, they keep coming up with new twists on how to enjoy the solitude of nature and camaraderie of friends while vacationing on a wild river.This season the company has focused on the young but rapidly growing sport of Stand-up Paddle Boarding, otherwise known as SUP.

This is the art of staying upright while balanced on a buoyant but narrow longboard and paddling it over the water. Toss in Class II-III rapids and the challenge is obvious.  Experienced guides help speed the learning curve but rest assured, there will be giggles and spills aplenty, especially when it’s women-only on one of Holiday River’s three planned SUP departures. These are scheduled for late summer on the Colorado River through Ruby and Westwater canyons along the Colorado-Utah border. Departure dates for the four-day trips are Aug. 29, Sept. 15 (women’s SUP retreat) and Sept. 29. The per person rate is $795. The rate for the women’s retreat is $1010, with Melanie Webb of Sol Fitness Adventures instructing. Trips are suitable for age eight and up (age 13 on the women’s retreat). Some equipment is provided; camping necessities can be rented. Guides prepare hearty and nutritious riverside meals along the way.

“Everything about the Ruby Canyon stretch of the Colorado River makes it ideal for learning to stand-up paddle. Long stretches of flat water and slow flows, sunny days, fully supported with rafting guides, inflatable kayaks, and oar boats to take a break or switch things up. More experienced paddlers will love the workout you get from paddling 36 out of 42 miles,” said Melanie Webb, SUP Instructor and founder of Sol Fitness Adventures.

Days 1 and 2 are in Ruby Canyon where guests learn the art of how to SUP. And they can also have fun with inflatable kayaks.  Day 3 brings Westwater Canyon with some easy rapids; Day 4 sees boards and kayaks packed away as guests pile into rafts to conquer Class IV whitewater. Other activities include swimming, fishing, hiking, and horseshoes.

Other women-only river adventures offered by Holiday River Expeditions include a July 18-22 Mother & Daughter rafting trip on the Green River where splashing guarantees bonding, and a July 8-11 Women’s Fitness & Yoga trip on Utah’s Green River with Kathleen Leopardi from Personal Zone Fitness who guides light core work, yoga and side canyon hiking in Lodore Canyon.

To help celebrate a special anniversary of the National Parks System, professional river runners from Holiday River Expeditions get into action early in the season with a National Parks Traveler Lodore Rafting Trip June 18-21. This is the second year of a partnership trip with National Parks Traveler that floats guests through Dinosaur National Monument over four days on the Green River through the Gates of Lodore and across the wilds of northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah. Once ashore, noted national park historian Dr. Alfred Runte, who consulted for and appeared on the Ken Burns/Dayton Duncan documentary, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, and who wrote National Parks, The American Experience, will lead campfire discussions about the National Park System celebrating its centennial this year. Award-winning photographer Patrick Cone will offer instruction and tips for capturing striking scenery. Also joining this trip is National Parks Traveler Editor-in-Chief Kurt Repanshek. The per person rate of $950 includes all park fees.

For anyone wanting to learn the art of whitewater kayaking, Andy Thunell from Rapid Progression Kayak School will provide the instruction and all the required kayaking equipment for an Aug. 1-6 Whitewater Kayaking Workshop in Desolation Canyon in the Green River Wilderness. The rate is $1,370 per person and the minimum age is 16.

Unique to this company is its Dark Sky Stargazing Trip Series that this summer offers four adventures focused on the stars. One is by mountain bike on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. Three are by raft: in Lodore Canyon (Green River) and in Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River near Moab, UT. Trips are run in partnership with Salt Lake City’s Clark Planetarium.

The season wraps with a Fall Extended Rafting & Hiking Trip combining the fun of rafting the Green River and Cataract Canyon with fascinating side canyon hikes to ancient Pueblo ruins and petroglyphs in the heart of Canyonlands National Park. The eight-day trip runs $1,535 per person.

Note on prices: stated rates may or may not include BLM use fees (check the website for full details).