Dr. Andrew Gunnoe, an associate professor of Sociology at Maryville College, is planning his second trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The 225-mile section starts at Lee’s Ferry and ends at Diamond Creek.
“It is the premiere, most spectacular river to run in the entire world,” said Gunnoe. “That’s what I do for my free time. That’s my passion. That’s my life goal to go down as many rivers as possible.” Gunnoe’s first trip was in 2011. During the 15-day trip, Gunnoe and his wife were married in the Grand Canyon.
“In 2011, I got a cancellation permit, so we only had a few months to prepare and we were already engaged. At that point, we were just like let’s just do that there and get it done with,” said Gunnoe. The chance to experience the beauty of the Colorado again made this upcoming trip impossible to pass up.
“It’s almost hard to put into words,” said Gunnoe. “It’s classically what people would call a trip of a lifetime. You go through the bottom of the Grand Canyon. You run incredible rapids. Every day you camp at the bottom of these canyons, and you can walk up into. It’s something I would like to do as many times as I possibly can … It’s not going to be any less spectacular.”
Gunnoe also shared his history with river running.
“I’ve been kayaking since 1999,” said Gunnoe. “I got into more big-river running, which is what this is, and it’s more of a Western thing where you go out and they’re much higher volume rivers. You also go out for multiple days, so you take rafts instead of kayaks … We have these huge 18-foot rafts we take down. I’ve been doing that since about 2008.” For people who have never experienced even smaller rivers, Gunnoe gave advice for getting started.
“Start small,” said Gunnoe. “You kind of work your way up. You can pay to have someone take you down rivers, so I mean, it also depends if you’re wanting to go down flat-water river or go down white water and what you want to get out of it.”
“I’ve always been attracted to white water. I like the adrenaline and adventure side of things. If that is of interest to you, you can pay somebody to […] go run rapids […] there’s a difference between paying someone to do it and building your own skill set and doing it,” said Gunnoe. When it comes to student interest in river running, Gunnoe was surprised that there is no campus club or group dedicated to this experience.
“I’m often amazed at the fact we don’t have any sort of white-water rafting program or kayaking program here to get students into white water,” said Gunnoe. “We live in one of the premiere areas and regions in the world for running rivers, and here at this college I’m often astounded. I tell my students that I can’t believe no one kayaks here. It’s like living in Aspen and not having a ski club, for me.”
Gunnoe’s excitement about river running and experience is evident. It is something he wants to share with other people. “I’ve taken students down the river before,” said Gunnoe. “I usually put it out there to students who want to learn and some take me up on it.”
Gunnoe’s upcoming trip will last 16 days with a group of only eight people. They will surely return with plenty of stories to tell.