Outdoor recreation has become one of the largest industries in the State of Idaho with the highest revenue generation. It is estimated that outfitters and guides have an economic output of $1.1 billion a year, and provide over 3,300 jobs. Even better, because of the remote locations of these outdoor recreation opportunities, much of this revenue is distributed throughout the most rural parts of the state.
Outfitters and guides in Idaho have been working hard to protect not only the industry that sustains them but also the wild lands on which they operate since the inception of outfitting. In 1954 guides and outfitters formed the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association (IOGA). This organization helps advocate for the industry and the lands on which we operate. IOGA works with state legislators to develop some of the most rigorous standards for regulating outfitting and guiding nationwide. Dave Helfrich was one of the founding members of the IOGA and both Ken and Kelsey Helfrich have served on the IOGA Board of Directors for many years.
In mid February, Kelsey, Ken and Sadie traveled down to the Idaho Capitol to participate in “Lobby Day.” This was an opportunity to get to know many of our legislators and the governor on a personal level. Lobby day gives outfitters and guides the avenue to advocate for legislation that preserves and protects wild lands as well as the industry.
After a full day of shaking hands, and meeting with legislators the Outfitters and Guides put on a wild game feast for the folks at the capitol to show them just a bit of what we are made of. We set up on the sidewalk in downtown Boise with fire pans and dutch ovens and prepared a feast with elk, cougar, salmon, steelhead, pheasant, bison, antelope, bear and more. There is a big “wow factor” to this event with the delicious food, unique atmosphere, fun people and more. This year’s lobby day was a total success!
A 40-foot long damaged bridge that had washed into the Middle Fork Salmon River was removed in mid-September 2022 by employees of Helfrich River Outfitters.
The 12,000-pound Ramshorn Pack Bridge was carried into the river in an early August debris flow on Ramshorn Creek, according to the Forest Service. The bridge was essentially demolished and was covered by thousands of pounds of logs, vegetation, rock and debris. It was obstructing river traffic and had become a safety concern.
Forest Service officials didn’t want the bridge to stay in the river all winter where spring runoff could have pushed it into a worse position.
Helfrich Outfitters was hired to remove the bridge through the outfitter fee offset program. Outfitters are charged a use fee to operate in national forests. Those fees can be reduced if the outfitter does work on the forest. Since 2020 in the Salmon-Challis Forest, 850 miles of trails have been rehabilitated through the program, the Boundary Creek boat launch road has been graded, gates have been replaced and campgrounds and trailheads upgraded.
“We knew the (Forest Service) was spread pretty thin with fighting fires this year and understand that contracting the bridge removal could take a long time,” Kidd Youren with Helfrich Outfitters said. “We looked at removing the bridge, knew we could get the job done, and we were willing to do our part. This was a good solution for both river users and the Forest Service.”
It took Helfrich workers four-days to remove the bridge from the river and secure it to the bank above the high water mark. In the spring, it will be dismantled so the pieces can be removed from the wilderness.
At Helfrich River Outfitters we love food, and there is no question about it, food is just better on the river. Eating a meal with friends and family, along the banks of a beautiful river, after a day of adventures is already going to be good no matter how you serve it. However, cooking a meal on a river trip is also an art form and one we have been working on for over 100 years.
As in most art forms, the beauty arises from the challenges. It’s not just that we are feeding up to 30 people breakfast, lunch, appetizers and dinner, but we are transporting our kitchen on boats – setting it up and taking it down every day. On top of that we pack all the food ahead of time, there is no running to the store to grab an item we forgot, and we have to pack our coolers just right to keep all of our fresh food at its best for up to 6 days! At Helfrich we lean into these challenges, finding and exploring all sorts of different meals that you would never think to have while “camping.”
When talking about the art of river trip cooking, using dutch ovens is at the top of our list! One of our favorite aspects of cooking on the river is baking, yes baking. We use dutch ovens and hot coals to make homemade biscuits, yeast breads, cornbread, breakfast casseroles and even cakes and desserts every night.
There is also the epic fire pan. It is on the fire pan you will find a pot of cowboy coffee every morning, next to whatever we are cooking up for breakfast. We use the fire pan not just to grill salmon, steaks, cornish game hens and more but as a heat source when cooking in our huge diameter fry pans. Ever made bacon for 30 people? How about fried chicken? The fry pans over an open flame are functional and also a beautiful way to prepare food.
Okay so we have talked about bread and cake, fried chicken and bacon but don’t worry we love the fresh produce as well. We have a salad every night and fruit with every breakfast, plus lots of fresh veggies with all of our meals. You should see what we can do with one of those massive fry pans and 15 lbs of brussel sprouts!