Thursday, March 3, 2011

What Whitewater River Rangers Do by Beth Groundwater, Guest Blogger

I am so pleased to introduce Beth Groundwater, mystery author and friend, as today's guest. This is Beth's third stop in her blog book tour for the debut novel in her new Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series from Midnight Ink. The complete tour schedule can be found at Beth's website. You can catch an interview with her tomorrow at Miami Books Examiner.

As an introduction to Mandy Tanner, whitewater river ranger, Beth is here today to explain what Mandy's job is like.


What Whitewater River Rangers Do by Beth Groundwater, Guest Blogger

In my March 8th release, Deadly Currents, the main character and sleuth, Mandy Tanner, is a whitewater river ranger who works for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area in Salida, Colorado. Many of you may be familiar with what forest rangers do, but you may not know what a whitewater river ranger does.

Much like forest rangers, river rangers enforce the regulations of the national or state parks in which they work. They provide information to the public, such as river conditions, river regulations, safety, natural history, cultural history, and especially about being good stewards of the environment. River rangers may also collect data and samples for studies and assist in special research projects.

The parks issue licenses to outfitters to run commercial trips down the rivers and may require private users to buy permits, too. River rangers check for these licenses and permits, inspect outfitters’ businesses, check the safety of commercial and private boats, issue citations, and fill out paperwork. Like most river rangers, Mandy Tanner hates paperwork and would rather be outside all day.

River rangers also serve as first-response law enforcement officers, breaking up altercations between park users, dealing with intoxicated drunks, and handling all the amazing kinds of trouble people can get into. Since many don’t carry firearms, they’ll often call for backup from local county Sheriff’s Offices if the situation is serious.

River rangers maintain and clean up riverside recreation sites, including campgrounds, trails, beaches and boat ramps. They notify park engineers when repairs need to be made to park facilities and equipment. They may remove nonnative vegetation such as invasive weeds or re-vegetate social trails.

On whitewater rivers, downed trees in the river can be life-threatening hazards. When one is sighted in the river by a rafting guide or ranger, a crew is put together to remove the hazard. Deadly Currents includes a scene where Mandy has to chainsaw a tree hazard, with interesting results!

Most river rangers will agree that the days they look forward to most are those they spend on the river, conducting patrols. On these patrols, along with looking for hazards, they look for people on the river who are in trouble and may need rescues or medical assistance. On long rivers, these patrols may last many days and require camping overnight along the river. Deadly Currents starts out with Mandy attempting a whitewater rescue that goes seriously wrong.

Whitewater river rangers are expected to already be experienced in running whitewater when they apply for the job, and many are former commercial rafting guides. They take yearly classes in first aid and CPR and in swiftwater rescue techniques. To research Deadly Currents, I observed one of these class days and took extensive notes and photos.

In the first photo below, a ranger tied to a rope has gone into the water to rescue a swimmer and a raft is coming to pull them both out of the water. In the second photo, a raft is held in place and slowly moved side-to-side by rangers manning lines on both shores while one ranger in the raft probes a rapid with a pole, looking for a body. The last photo shows rangers manning ropes as they try to pull a stuck raft off of mid-river rocks. Note that they are all wearing wet or drysuits, PFDs (lifejackets) and helmets for their personal safety. Also look at all the ropes involved!

River rangers work all over the United States and in other countries. To give you an idea, in Colorado, they patrol the Arkansas, Colorado, Dolores, Gunnison, and San Miguel rivers and in Oregon, they patrol the Deschutes, Grande Ronde, John Day, Klamath, North Umpqua, and Rogue rivers. If you’d like to learn more about whitewater river rangering, check out this blog written by a river ranger for and about those whose job takes them down wild and scenic rivers.

Have you ever encountered a river ranger while on the river? What was she/he doing? Do you think being a river ranger sounds like an attractive job or not? What questions do you have about river ranger job duties? Remember, everyone who comments will be entered into a contest for a free copy of Deadly Currents.

If you’d like to see what the other stops are on my virtual book tour, go to:, and if you’d like to order an autographed copy of Deadly Currents, go to the website for Black Cat Books and click on "Contact Us”. Either call the phone number or fill out the form with your contact information.


Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series (A Real Basket Case, a 2007 Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist, and To Hell in a Handbasket, 2009) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. The first, Deadly Currents, will be released March 8th.

Beth lives in Colorado and enjoys its many outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and whitewater rafting. She loves talking to book clubs, too, and not just for the gossip and wine!

Please visit her website at and her blog at


JACT said...

Thanks for the background on the work of river rangers (I didn't even know this special category of park rangers existed.) Hope their jobs aren't threatened by all the cuts that are likely to come down from DC and various state capitols.

Richard said...

I think that I should have been a river ranger instead of a teacher when I grew up.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Beth, thanks so much for being my guest today. I've never done one of the river rafting trips, but always enjoy watching them come down the Poudre River in No. Colorado. To think some of those guides might be future river rangers is pretty interesting.

Harvee/Book Dilettante said...

Have never been whitewater rafting but am looking forward to it one day. I like reading about it though!

harvee44 at

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comment. I hope so, too, and from the job postings I see on the river ranger blog, it sounds like most of the jobs are secure, for the moment. I think permit fees paid by those who run the rivers pays for most of the salaries of these much-needed professionals.

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Richard,
No, we need teachers! What you're doing is really important. :)

Hi Patricia,
And thank YOU for inviting me to be a guest. I love reading your blog, especially when you have a guest author on.

Hi Harvee,
Thanks for your comment, and I hope you enjoy reading Deadly Currents enough that it whets your appetite for a whitewater river adventure of your own. :)

Cricket McRae said...

I didn't know about this special kind of ranger, either, Beth! Thanks for the detailed information and congratulations on the upcoming release of Deadly Currents!

Lisa DuVal said...

Interesting post...I also did not know there were river rangers.

The Golden Eagle said...

I hadn't heard of river rangers before, either. This was a fascinating post!

Beth Groundwater said...

Jenny emailed me with:

"Oh, how I would love to attend this festival, Beth! I wouldn't participate--I like my rapids guided, and class IV or below--but my four year old son is one of these kinds of river rats in the making. Last year we went rafting in Idaho and he greeted every face spray with shrieks of pure glee, then asked where the bigger rapids were.

I can't wait to read your book, whether won or bought soon!!"

She had trouble trying to post a comment. Frankly, I've had some problems, too, and I think it might be related to Pat's choice of blogger template. I haven't been able to comment as "Google account" but I can get one to appear when I comment as "Name/URL" and Preview it first. So, try that! If anyone still has trouble posting a comment here and wants to be sure they get entered into the free book contest, click on "Contact Me" at my website (, leave me your comment there, and I'll post it here!

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Cricket, Lisa, and Golden Eagle,
Thanks for your comments! River rangers are a specialized category of park rangers, with many of the same duties and training as regular park rangers, but with the specialized skills of reading and running whitewater and swiftwater rescue training added in.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Maybe Blogger has the hiccups today. Ordinarily there are no problems posting comments here, and I also use my Google profile.

Carol N Wong said...

Never met one, never heard of them, never wanted to be a river ranger. I am amazed at how many duties and responsibilities they have!

I did have an experience in the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky that makes me think that a River Ranger would have fit right in. When I was ten years old, we were on a cave tour and ready to get in a boat for a ride on the underground river. My foot slipped and a park ranger caught me in mid air before I fell into the river. I was never so surprise in my life!



Patricia Stoltey said...


Patricia Stoltey said...

Beth -- it was definitely a Blogger issue. I have no limitations on who can post and no security captchas so usually a comment posts directly as my test above did. The other comment I left, however, brought up a review screen first. It's unfortunate this happened today and during your tour. I'm sure we've missed some comments because of it.

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Carol,
Great story! I've got a great story of going tubing in an underground river in New Zealand to see glowworms hanging on the ceiling. Now THAT was an adventure. Hearing the roar of rushing water ahead IN THE DARK is a very scary experience! :)

Michelle Mach said...

I never knew this kind of position existed. Sounds like a great occupation for a sleuth! Congrats on the new series.

Sheila Deeth said...

There's a lot more to the job than I'd thought, and it sounds like a great occupation for a sleuth--lots of potential. Looking forward to the book.

Anonymous said...

This is such interesting information. I've learned something. Great photos to visualize the scene. It sounds like a very satisfying job, working in the open, surrounded by nature, helping people who might be in trouble.

Thanks, Pat, for hosting Beth.

And Beth: I really want to read this book. If I don't win it, I'll buy it!!
Ann Best, Long Journey Home

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Michelle, Sheila, and Ann,
Thanks for your comments (and contest entries!). I'm enjoying educating folks a little on the fact that rivers rangers exist and what they do.

Thanks so much for saying you'll buy the book if you don't win it, though I wish you luck! :)

Heidiwriter said...

Interesting! I didn't know there were River Rangers!

j.a. kazimer said...

Hi Beth and Pat:

So excited to read Deadly Currents. I can almost feel the water smacking me in the face.



Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, Heidi and Julie!

I loved the referral to water smacking you in the face. :)

Stephani Schupbach said...

How could I have lived in Colorado most of my life and not known about river rangers? I have to get this book! My best friend is a part-time river guide and I love to hear her stories. (Yet, I'm too afraid to go on a trip!) Interesting post -- thanks Beth and Patricia.

ElsieHayd said...

Fascinating subject. Fascinating topic--and did I tell you I love your cover? I'm so proud to be called your friend and fan!
L. C. Hayden

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, Stephani and L.C.! I have to admit that I love my cover, too. :)

And Patricia, thanks so much for inviting me to visit. This was fun!

lesleylsmith said...

I'm reminded of some fun river trips I've taken. I'll have to book one for this coming summer! This novel looks really interesting! I'll have to check it out!

Hart Johnson said...

Ha! I was a licensed whitewater guide on the Salmon River in Idaho when I was in college and my uncle actually runs a rafting business out of Riggins, so i KNOW this world! The Salmon has long stretches of river that can only be reached by water--no access road for many miles (like a 3-5 day rafting trip worth). I saw a couple rangers, but usually when there were hazards--an encroaching forest fire--that kind of thing.

I've always thought though, that this was a PERFECT mystery set-up! A rafting group is basically a 'closed room' mystery setting, only there's no room. I look forward to reading this! (and recommend contacting some business owners who run these rafting companies--might be some fun tie-in promotional stuff--I mean can you imagine going on a raft trip that was basically a murder-mystery theater deal? Wouldn't that be a HOOT?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Hi Beth! Wow, never knew so much about river rangers. Bet that was fun research.

Arlee Bird said...

Such a beautiful place to report to work. Beats a cubicle job in a nondescript office building in the city.

Tossing It Out

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks for your comments, Lesley, Hart, Diane, and Arlee,

Hart, I love your idea of a murder mystery rafting trip. What a hoot that would be! Deadly Currents isn't really a locked-room type of mystery because it takes place during the First in Boating on the Arkansas (FIBArk) festival in Salida when the town is teeming with people.

For the third book, though, I'm thinking along the same lines as you--a variation on a locked room type of mystery with Mandy and her boyfriend Rob leading a remote multi-day rafting trip. I was thinking of Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River in Utah for that, in early spring or late fall when there aren't as many people on the river, but I'll have to check out the Salmon River as a potential location, too. Cataract Canyon would make a great book title, though. :)

Yes the research is a lot of fun, but the writing gets done in my basement writing office at home, which isn't that much different from most people's cubicles. :)

Patricia Stoltey said...

Beth, that Cataract Canyon idea is excellent. I'm thinking movie deal, girl!

Hart Johnson said...

Beth, if you want me to hook you up with a rafting guide who might be open to the idea, give a shout. hartjohnson23(at)gmail(dot)com. My uncle had definitely done themed trips and I bet he'd be open to the idea (and it might get you a free raft trip. I think Elspeth Antonoli does murder mystery games professionally, so maybe she'd help translate.

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Patricia,
Movie deal! Wouldn't that be nice. Though, I'd like them to start with the first book. :)

Hi Hart,
No, I didn't want to have to WORK and compose the murder mystery game for the raft trip. I want to PLAY the game and try to find out who dunnit! ;-)

Michelle Gregory said...

i found you through Arlee Bird. nice to meet another writer.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Hello Patricia there is an award waiting at my blog, it's called Friends For The Journey.


shirley said...

What an interesting job a river ranger has!

walk2write said...

Beth, you have the perfect surname for authoring this first book in your series. Will the others take us to the water in some form or other?

I really admire park rangers. They often have to wear many hats and always wear a smile, no matter how rude some visitors are.

Beth Groundwater said...

Michelle, Yvonne, Shrley, and Walk2write,
Thanks for your comments!

All of the books in the Deadly Currents series will include whitewater rivers and whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner in them. And Mandy has to deal with some rude visitors, too! ;-)