Master river guide and Lehi resident, Nancy Seamons (left) expertly guides a raft down white water rapids. | Courtesy Nancy Seamons

When Nancy Seamons was 12, her dad wanted to take a family trip down the Yampa and Green Rivers. As a family that thrived on outdoor experiences, they decided to test Warm Springs Rapids. These were rapids that had recently been born after a very wet spring had dislodged huge boulders that ended up in Colorado’s Yampa River.

The family was instructed that to survive these rapids, they either had to hug the left cliff wall or the right bank. “Don’t go down the middle or you will end up in the “hole,’” was the guide’s warning. Nancy’s canoe ended up going down the middle. She was dumped into the river and ended up having to swim two to three miles to get help. “I honestly didn’t think I was in danger. I just thought I was having fun,” said Nancy. Her addiction to whitewater rafting was born.

12-year-old Nancy Seamons on a river trip down the Yampa with family. | Courtesy Nancy Seamons

In the summer after Seamons’ senior year of high school, her father took seven scouts on a high adventure trip to Yellowstone. The boys, along with their leaders, had made canoes for the trip. The group took the canoes to Yellowstone Lake and started their adventure. One of the boy’s canoes tipped and dumped the two young men into the lake. Seamons’ dad along with another leader jumped into the lake to save the boys. The water was so cold that all suffered from hypothermia and died. “I was the oldest of six siblings,” said Seamons. “Some of my brothers and sisters would never get in a canoe or boat again. On the other hand, I knew to conquer my fears and help me move forward, I had to go rafting again. I could not let fear rule my life.”

Fast forward to 1992, “I was a single mother with six kids. I was finishing up my degree so I could find employment that would help provide for my family. I heard a classmate say he had put himself through school being a river guide.” The idea sparked an old passion and Seamons completed the coursework necessary to attend the University of Utah to become a licensed raft guide. “I grew tired of just rafting the Green River in paddle boats. I wanted to try going down Cataract Canyon. I volunteered to row the garbage boat just to get a chance to go down the biggest whitewater canyon in Utah,” she said. “I rowed down Big Drop 1,2,3 also called “Little Niagara” and “Satan’s Gut.’’ After the experience, a friend commented, “Nancy, that is the first time I have seen you smile in six days.”

Nancy at the helm negotiating a white water rapid. | Courtesy Nancy Seamons

“Rafting the Colorado and Green Rivers has become a necessary part of my life. I guide each summer and also take my kids and grandkids on rafting expeditions. The experience teaches my grandkids so many life lessons,” Seamons said. “They all have their own PFD’s (personal flotation devices) and like to bounce in the water and then get back in the boat. They learn independence, resilience, interpersonal skills, and most of all, to love and appreciate one another.” Eleven of her eighteen grandchildren have been with her on river trips. “I made my son-in-law go on a trip to learn the skill. I figured if he could do it, he would make a good husband,” said Seamons. “If you can run the river for a week, you will make a marriage work. Marriage is like running the river. You learn to do hard things.” This year on one of Seamons’ trips with her grandchildren, a lady yelled, “Are they all yours?” Nancy yelled back, “Yes!” In a tone of total admiration, the lady yelled back, “What a woman!”  There are many friends and family who would agree.

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