By Dianna Troyer
Insurance agent Alan Hunter has nearly run out of room in his Burley office to hang more photos from his decades of river-running adventures. He has been rafting rivers throughout the West since 1984. His license plate sums up his aquatic passion.
“I’ve had LV2RFT for about 20 years,” Alan says. “My wife, Jeanne, gave it to me for Valentine’s Day.”
Every year, Alan, 70, averages three to 4 major trips and three to five one-day trips through the Hagerman Valley section of the Snake River.
“I love everything about running rivers—the adrenaline of navigating the rapids, camping in gorgeous primitive areas and the camaraderie with whoever is on a trip,” Alan says.
“I’ve never been a guide—just an organizer who wants to get others interested,” he says of his 38 years of rafting. “I’ve probably introduced about 1,000 people to rafting.”
Alan launched his 2022 rafting season in May. For the first time, he did back-to-back trips down the Main Salmon River and the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.
“The water was so fast with the spring runoff,” he says. “We were going about 7 to 10 miles an hour. Usually, we go about 3 mph. We covered 180 miles in 6 days. It was fabulous.”
In July, Alan plans to float the Main Salmon with 30 people after drawing a permit on the 80-mile-long scenic river that slices through central Idaho.
In August and September, he will float down the Snake River through Hells Canyon with 24 people on each month’s permit.
“Last year, we had four generations in Hells Canyon, with my 96-year-old dad there, my sons and grandkids,” Alan says. “That was a cool experience.”
His luck with drawing permits is phenomenal.
Last summer, through a lottery system, Alan won a permit to run the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.
“It was unbelievable for me because there were 3,942 applicants,” he says.
Alan’s permit allowed 16 people to go on the two-week trip. It was his fifth time to raft through the canyon.
“There used to be a waitlist of8 to 10 years, but that was replaced with a lottery,” he says. “It’s worth the wait.” An unforgettable rapid is Lava Falls.
“When I look at it on YouTube, my stomach always churns,” Alan says. “But we made it through without flipping a boat.”
Alan says he has learned to read rapids and how to negotiate them since his first Grand Canyon trip when he was a novice river runner.
At the beginning of that trip, he started by playing the soundtrack from the musical “Paint Your Wagon.”
“I’ll always remember how we laughed at the lyrics of the song ‘I’m on My Way,’” he says. “Where am I goin’? I don’t know. Where am I headin’? I ain’t certain. All that I know is I am on my way.”
Alan says his love of rafting was sparked by a bighorn sheep hunt. In 1984, he drew a hunting tag for the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness.
“You had to fly in or float,” he says. “My uncle loaned us an old heavy Navy life raft. I never did get a sheep, but after two weeks there, I was hooked on rafting.”
Since then, he has run Idaho’s acclaimed rivers: the Selway, Bruneau, Lochsa, Middle Fork of the Salmon and Main Salmon, and the Snake River through the Hagerman Valley and Murtaugh Canyon.
“I’d still love to do the Colorado one more time and take our grandkids along to show them the Grand Canyon from the river,” Alan says. “Hopefully, my luck with winning a permit can still hold out.”