The Backbone of earth river

""Earth River Expeditions is the premier river runner in the world. Their staff includes the finest guides to be found. They have guided descents down some of the toughest whitewater on Earth."

– ESPN Television

Not only have Earth River guides safely taken care of our guests for the past 25 years but their contribution to our exploratory and conservation work has been immeasurable. It takes a special kind of person to deal with the unforseen challenges associated with first descents, exploratories and conservation trips. It is imperitive that the seasoned guests we take on exploratories, non paying media and policy makers that come on conservation expeditions and neophyte beginners on rivers like the Futaleufu and Magpie all feel secure. Our guides are hand picked, motovated and extremely accomplished beyond river guiding. As marvelous as the destinations we visit are, they will tell you that the highlight of their work is sharing those amazing places with our guests. The “Personal Reflections” beneath each guide's Bio, is a link to an extraordinary personal story.

Eric Hertz, Partner/Guide

Eric Hertz

"Eric is one of the best in the business - Obsessed with safety."

National Geographic (yellow) Magazine

I met Eric in 1988, when he almost single-handedly stopped the James Bay II Hydro-electric Project, which would have destroyed eleven major rivers in northern Quebec. I worked with him to save Headwall Canyon in British Columbia and Quebec's Magpie.

Robert Kennedy Jr.


Eric’s guiding began at 16 on a cross country bicycle trip where he met a guide who invited him to row a baggage boat on Oregon's Rogue River. Throughout his high school and college summers he guided on the Tuolumne River in California where he was one of the first to run a commercial paddle boat. After college, he spent his summers guiding on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon and was a playwright the rest of the year. His plays won a number of awards including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. His play “Between Rails” was produced off-broadway. (New York Times review). During this time he also co-founded the Rondout-Esopus Land Conservancy in the Catskill and Sharwangunk ("gunks") Mountains of the Hudson Valley in New York which has protected over 3,500 acres.

In the late nineteen eighties, Eric gave up playwriting to start Earth River. The company was founded on a number of core principles; exploring and finding the most amazing trips, running the finest, safest trips possible and fighting to preserve important river resources. Over the past 23 years, Eric has organized and led dozens of conservation awareness trips taking policy makers and media down threatened rivers. His efforts focussed on stopping the James Bay Hydro-electric Project in Quebec and dams on Chile’s Bio Bio and Futaleufu rivers and Quebec’s Magpie. Eric's other conservation efforts helped bring awareness to the preservation of watersheds like British Columbia’s, Yosemite like, Headwall Canyon and New Foundland’s Main River, which were both threatened by clear cut logging. Using his land trust experience, he and his partner, Robert Currie, founded, the Earth River Land Trust on the Futaleufu which to date has protected over 20 kilometers of the river’s most dramatic shoreline.

Eric has been a pioneer in river rafting safety. He introduced the industry to foot cups to keep paddlers in the rafts and was among the first to teach clients active "self rescue" swimming techniques rather than passively floating on their backs. He was the first outfitter to offer a raft training day before running class 5 and introduced the industry to the use of caterafts "safety cats" as a rescue craft on large volume rivers like the futaleufu. He was the among the first to introduce oar-paddle hybrid rafts and double guided boats on challenging rivers.

Eric has organized and led first descents around the world and has been featured in American Airlines Magazine, Outside, National Geographic (yellow), National Geographic Adventure, The New York Times, Conde Naste Traveler and Men's Journal and on National Geographic Television, P.B.S., ESPN, TBS and Nicolodian. He pioneered and opened commercial rafting and multi-sport trips on a number of spectacular destinations including; Patagonia Chile's Futaleufu, China's Great Bend of the Yangtze, Quebec's Magpie, Peru's Colca Canyon, Tibet's Upper Yangtze, British Columbia's Headwall Canyon and the Yukon Territory's Primrose. Eric was the trip leader and captained the lead boat on a number of notable first raft descents including; the Futaleufu, Magpie, Headwall Canyon and Tibet's Schulo Ho which was featured in National Geograpic (yellow) Magazine.  His two sons, Cade and Teal, are now guiding commercially.

Personal Reflections

Jiyue Zhang

JiyueChinese Partner/Guide

Jiyue is one of the grandfathers of adventure travel in China. Upon graduation from Sichuan Sports Institute in 1982, where he was a highly ranked 400 meter runner, Jiyue began working for China Mountaineering Association as a climbing guide and liaison working with international climbers. In 1985 the Chinese government sent him to the U.S. for whitewater training where he ran eight different rivers. The following year, he participated in the joint Sino-USA, first descent of the Yangtze River which completed 2000 kilometers of the previously unrun river. ABC's American Sportsman,featured the expedition in a two-part, 90-minute special titled, "Challenging China's Yangtze".

In 1993, under China's Open Door policy, Jiyue founded, Sichuan Earth Expeditions, one of the first private adventure companies in China. The company organized and led numerous first ascents throughout China and Tibet including the North Face of Gonga Mountain with one America's of America's most distinguished mountain climbers, Fred Becky. Sichuan Earth Expeditions also participated in the 2005 Chinese climb of the Mt. Everest and the 2008 World Olympic torch relay to the top of Everest.

As Earth River's China partner, Jiyue helped organize and run the first descent of the Shangri-la's Shuilo and Po Tsangpo Rivers in Tibet, as well as early commercial descents trips down the Great Bend and Upper Yangtze, He has been featured in Outside, National Geographic (yellow), National Geographic Adventure, Men's Journal and on National Geographic Television, China's Outdoor Exploration and Japanese Outdoor Magazine.

Personal Reflections


Shao HongExpedition leader
River & Mountain Guide

In his twenties Shaohong was China's premier decathlete and honored with the prestigious "Chinese National Sportsman Award". When he retired from track, he forged a new career in adventure travel becoming an expert mountaineering, trekking and river guide.

Shaohong has taken part in numerous mountaineering first ascents in eastern Tibet. He participated in the 2002 joint China-Japan expedition that reached the summit of ChoOyu, the world's fifth highest mountain. In 2005 he summited Everest as part of a Chinese team organized to formally measure the height of the mountain. He was awarded China's highest sporting honour, the Sport's Medal of Honour, for his contribution to the expedition's success.

Shaohong has participated in many Earth River rafting tours on the Great Bend of the Yangtze in Yunnan and the Upper Yangtze river in Qinghai provinces. He has gained a great reputation for his Chinese cooking on the rafting expeditions.

Shaohong is also a professional photographer, and photographs have been published in China National Geographic and Japanese and Hong Kong outdoor adventure and travel magazines. In 2008 he was the official photographer for the Chinese Mountaineering Team's ascent of Mount Everest with the Olympic Torch. His photographs were used in the official commemorative album, "Olympic Shining Flame on Mount Everest."

Personal Reflections

Steve Mahan

Steve MahanExpedition Leader
Syracuse, New York

"Steve's incredible energy level is only superceded by his enthusiasm to share incredible places with others. His eyes light up when he talks about his work with inner city kids and photography."

- Dick Shiro, Futaleufu, Upper Yangtze

Steve has been guiding for over 35 years and has been with Earth River since it’s inception. He has run rivers on nearly every continent including 10 years on the Grand Canyon, 9 years on the Upper Yangtze and 5 years on the Futaleufu. He guided on the first ever descent of Tibet’s class 5 Poe Sang Po and on many of the earliest Futaleufu expeditions. Steve is an accomplished photographer and his work has appeared in National Geographic Adventure, American Airlines Magazine and Conde Naste Traveler. He is an associate professor of photography at Syracuse University where he founded the PAL project which connects university students with inner city school children through photography and creative writing. He lives in Syracuse with his wife Mary Lynn and their two daughters.

Personal Reflections

Danny Amos

Danny AmosExpedition leader

Danny has been guiding river expeditions for 8 years and is a wilderness EMT and a NOLS instructor. Besides river guiding, he is a certified ice climbing, rock climbing and fly fishing guide. His river guiding experience includes numerous rivers throughout the western U.S. including Alaska and the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Internationally he has guided in New Zealand, Morocco, Nepal and in Chile on the Futaleufu. Danny is an airplane and helicopter pilot. He is currently pursuing a commercial helicopter flight instructor license.

Personal Reflections



Ty has been guiding for 12 years. He has a B.S. and Masters in Environmental Science. Ty is a graduate of the 90 day, W.I.L.D guide training program. W.I.L.D. is the most intensive and arduous guide training program in the world with participants running rivers from Canada to Costa Rica over a three month period. Ty guides on the Magpie and will be down in Chile this winter to begin training on the Futaleufu. He plays the mandolin and often sings around the campfire.



Personal Reflections

Cade Hertz

Accord, New York

"Cade is an exceptionally mature and sensitive young man. We were amazed by his competence at such a young age. It was hard for Natalia and I to believe he was only 18." David Larkin, first descent of Yavero River, 2010

Cade has been involved in running expeditions since he was 6. He has worked as a guide on the Middle Fork of the Salmon, Magpie and the Futaleufu. Internationally he has done expedions in Patagonia, Peru, Tibet, Fiji, British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Quebc. At 9 he began paddling an inflatable kayak down the class 4 Magpie River in Quebec and shot video to sell to the guests. The following year he was on the first exploration of the Lakes of Patagonia in Chile, featured in National Geographic Adventure Magazine. In 2003 he became active in the fight to stop multiple dams slated for the lower Magpie River in Quebec, testifying at government hearings in Sept Isles, Quebec and showing a video that contradicted the developers claims that the River’s most impressive and soon to be flooded rapid was not runnable. His Magpie footage of a conservation expediton with Robert Kennedy Jr. was shown across Canada on CBC Television. In 2010 he shot video on the first raft and commercial descent of Peru’s Yavero River. Cade is an avid kayaker and shoots video on Earth River Futaleufu expeditions.

Personal Reflections


Greg Smith

Greg SmithExpedition Leader
Ashland, Oregon

"Just wanted to let you know that Brent and I had another amazing trip with Greg (Our fifth). His passion for the outdoors and wanting to share it with others is only surpassed by his attention to detail, friendly demeanor, conscientious nature and concern for people's safety and well being. We can't wait to do another trip with him."

- Shanna Chan, Futaleufu, Colca, Yangtze & Magpie.

Greg has been guiding expeditions around the world for 25 years, working as an Earth River trip leader for the past 15 years on the Colca, Yangtze and Futaleufu Rivers. He is among the most highly respected and experienced whitewater guides of our time. He has rafted on five continents and been an integral part of Earth River's conservation efforts on the Magpie River and British Columbia's, Yosemite like, Headwall Canyon. In addition to guiding rafts he spent five years on the U.S. National rafting team. Greg received his EMT and Wilderness EMT certification in 1988 and continues his medical training to the present. He has taught numerous guide schools in California, Oregon and Australia. When not guiding for Earth River, he runs his own fly fishing company on the Rogue River in Oregon and works as a general contractor. He lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife Susan.

Aaron Cavagnolo

Expedition Leader Aaron Cavagnolo
Davis, California

Aaron started guiding as a student at the University of California, Davis where he received a degree in civil engineering. After graduating, he continued to guide on the Grand Canyon, Cherry Creek and the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Internationally Aaaron has guided in New Zealand, Peru through the Colca Canyon and for 5 years in Chile on the Futaleufu. He has taught numerous guide schools and worked as an instructor for Outward Bound. When not guiding he has worked as a math teacher and water polo coach at Wagner College. Aaron has been a an EMT for ten years and is currently applying to medical school. His interest is emergency medicine which will allow him the flexibility to continue guiding.


 Personal Reflections


“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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