One River, One Family
About us: Aggipah River Trips is a local, family-operated whitewater rafting guide service. We’ve been in business since 1977. We outfit multi-day whitewater trips on all three wilderness sections of the Salmon River. We provide trips only on the Salmon River-yet by offering trips on various sections of the Salmon and different times of the year, we have a variety of trips available. We think it is better to stay on one river, and know it best, than to spread out over a number of rivers in different areas. We feel it is important that the outfitter is on the river throughout the season leading trips, rather than being home in the office. River trips are pretty special to us, too.
Aggipah Peak is the second-highest point in the River of No Return Wilderness Area, above the lower end of the Middle Fork of the Salmon. The name comes from the Shoshone Indian term for the Salmon River, which roughly translates to “Big Fish Water.” When we began our river business in the late ’70s, we chose “Aggipah River Trips” as a company name, as it is emblematic of the central Idaho back-country.Whitewater rafting began as recreation and a summer job during college, but became the central portion of our lives- a way of life as much as a living. After several seasons working for other river outfitters on various western rivers, we chose the Salmon River to begin our own river outfitting business in 1977. Large volume tour operators, we are not.
Bill Bernt, Owner
Bill began floating on the Green, Colorado, Salmon, Snake, and other rivers in the late ‘60s. A winter-range thesis on antelope led to off-season employment for several winters as a wildlife biologist in the Salmon area, working primarily with big game distribution, while continuing to float during the summer. Now, preparing for the coming season occupies the winter. Bill has been active in management issues in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area, served six years on the Board of Directors of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, and a dozen years on the Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board for the State of Idaho.
The old log cabins along the river have a particular attraction for Bill. His great-grandpa homesteaded in a sod house along a prairie river in the 1880s, on property that is still in the family. Bill grew up in an area that, while fully road-accessible, had a strong pioneer heritage. As a small kid, electricity had not replaced kerosene lamps, indoor plumbing had not yet been installed, the telephone was hand-crank, grade school was one room, and the cows were milked by hand. Later, when guiding whitewater trips on various western rivers, the harshness of the Southwest environment did not appeal as much as the richer, more productive, Salmon River, where the early prospectors, trappers, and homesteaders had scratched out a living and become part of the environment instead of just visitors. History of the region, horse-packing into the back-country, flying the back-country in small planes, and firearms of the early West are personal interests.
Peggy Bernt, Owner
Peg, now retired, taught high school biology and science in Salmon, Idaho for 35 years, running a boat during July and August. Personal interests include astronomy, flower gardens, and travel–and helping a grandkid grow. She is active in a local garden club and teachers organization.
Family & Crew
Stephanie and John started going on Main Salmon trips when they were four, and on the Middle Fork when they were seven. Stephanie helped in the shop, around camp, and ran a duffle boat before she was old enough for her license to carry passengers. She now has 14 years as a licensed boatman. She is one of only a few women who run sweep boats and drift boats, and guide steelhead fishermen.
With a degree in western history, her personal interests include hiking, marathon running, backcountry skiing, travel, river history, and, of course, whitewater rafting. She spent a year in Anchorage at the University of Alaska, and spent several falls as cook in pack-in elk hunting camps. She plans to take over the family business.
Her husband Eric is a former smoke-jumper , and continues to work in fire management with the Forest Service. He is a skilled fisherman and hunter. His career doesn’t allow him to get on many long river trips, though he does have his guides license, and after retirement will be able to boat regularly. They have a house a dozen miles out of Salmon, overlooking the Salmon River–nice orchard, elk and deer in the yard.
They have two sons: Wesley Koffler and Walker Monroe, both named for Salmon River boatmen. Wesley took his first river trip at 18 months, Walker at 2. They’re both fascinated with moving water.
John served two enlistments in the army, and is now a helicopter pilot when not on the river. He roped calves in High School Rodeo, hunted, fished, worked for various horse outfitters in the Salmon River and Selway back-country before his enlistment. His primary military assignment was as a sniper in Afghanistan and Iraq. While off-base opportunities were non-existent there, in other areas he took full advantage–ice and rock climbing in Korea, racing and jumping motorcycles in Louisiana, surf fishing for sharks in Virginia, extreme kayaking in New York.
Home on the Salmon River
We live on 40 acres a dozen miles from the historic town of Salmon, just under the Continental Divide. The Lewis and Clark trail crosses the property. While their name has become attached to the route, it was the major passage for generations of Indians and early explorers, and, later, for stagecoaches carrying gold shipments from the downriver mines– lots of history to stimulate the imagination. A creek runs through the place, which borders public land. Elk, deer, and antelope roam the ridges above the house, and we have seen moose, mountain lions, bears, and wolves from the house. We keep a few horses, mustang and mustang/Morgan cross, to access this back-yard back-country. A private airstrip extends onto the property.
Keeping us on the Salmon River
All the elements of western history, from prehistoric Indians, Lewis and Clark, fur trappers, prospectors and miners, cattlemen and sheepmen, to current wilderness, water, and endangered species controversy, have intermingled in the Salmon River country. From the depths of Hells Canyon to the peaks of the Continental Divide, sagebrush to subalpine fir, its diversity has a fascination that holds us on the “River of No Return”.