“I’ve rafted with Eric Hertz down some tough rivers—the Futaleufu in Chile, the Colca in Peru. He's one of the best in the business—obsessed with safety.”

 - National Geographic Magazine, November 1996 


In Earth River’s  two decade quest to find amazing rafting destinations for our clients, we have had our share of unfulfilled disappointments on countless exploratories and first descents, as well as some land mark discoveries like Canada's Magpie, Patagonia, Chile’s Futaleufu and Peru’s Yavero.

One of those failures was Earth River's epic first descent of Tibet’s Shiulo River was chronicled in The National Geographic Magazine, the only time a commercial river outfitter has ever been featured in the publication’s 120 year history. At one point, the expedition team was nearly trapped in a sheer walled gorge section of the river where they were forced to run a series of unscoutable class 5 rapids. After a harrowing week and one final 30 mile canyon looming ominously downstream, the expedition came to an abrupt end when a Yak trail offered the first escape from the Canyon. To the ire of a number of the paying clinets, Eric Hertz decided to abort the expedition.  After an intense debate between the expediton members, the National Geographic writer pulled Eric off to the side and told him that quitting now, 30 miles short of the end, would for all intensive purposes kill the National Geographic story. Having none of it,  Eric replied, “If you don’t have a story by now, you’re not a writer.”  The expedition ended on a rocky beach, that day.

Six years later, a group of expert, professional kayakers attempted the Shuilo’s final 30 miles. They encountered numerous unnraunnable rapids. Even in relatively light,  agile kayaks, they had a number of harrowing moments and endured long, arduous, exposed portages. They reported back that that attempting the final 30 mile canyon in rafts with gear and clients would have been extremely risky and nearly impossible and that Earth River's decision to end where they did, had been the correct one. (To view story, see exploratories in Earth River library)

Eric’s preoccupation with client safety began with his earliest guiding days. In 1973, as an 18 year old paddle boat guide on the Tuolumne River in California, he came up with the concept of foot-cups to keep people safely in paddle rafts. Two weeks later Eric helped install the first raft foot cups which have been a fixture on challenging ever since. Eric’s preoccupation with figuring out the best way to challenge clients while guarding them from unnecessary exposure continued with Earth River which one of the first companies to teach clients aggressive self rescue, swimming techniques thereby challenging the norm of having swimmers floating passively on their backs with their feet in front of them.

When Eric Hertz and Randy Porpiglia guides Earth River's first raft descent of the Futaleufu in 1991, the common belief in whitewater circles was that the Futaleufu could not be safely rafted. After that first successful expedition, the challenge was figuring out how to safely show commercial clients this wondrous place. Being the only rafting company there for the first few years, Eric invented a rafting safety system specific to the Futaleufu’s big, powerful technical water.

Twenty years later, outfitters are still using Eric’s original safety innovations including; the elimination of heavy, unwieldy baggage boats, incorporating the trail system for people not wishing to run class five, teaching clients aggressive self rescue swimming techniques, the use of custom made, stern mounted, oar-paddle rafts, a class 4 training warm up including swim test and flip drill and the use of custom made safety catarafts with safety decks (the first time catarafts were employed in this fashion anywhere). Leaving as little to chance as possible, Earth River also set up the two corresponding water level gauges and came up with the high water safety cuts offs for the different sections of the river which are followed to this day.


“Eric Hertz has devoted his life and his company’s resources to saving some of the world’s last great white-water, wilderness rivers.".
"Earth River is the premier river runner in the world. Their staff includes the finest guides to be found."
“Earth River is more than a great whitewater outfitter. Their contributions have made a real difference in our efforts to preserve some of the world's most beautiful rivers in Chile and Canada."
"I want to personally thank Earth River for helping us stop the hydro-electric projects on our land preventing the destruction of one of North America's last great wildernesses.
“I’ve rafted with Eric Hertz down some tough rivers—the Futaleufu in Chile, the Colca in Peru. He's one of the best in the business—obsessed with safety."
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