IDAHO, USA — Most people wouldn’t think much about the brown photo album sitting on Paula Guth’s coffee table — not knowing that pieces of presidential history live between the pages.

“I don’t know how to explain it … just a once-in-a-lifetime crazy thing,” Guth said.

During the summer of 1978, Guth helped take then-President Jimmy Carter and his family down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Now, 45 years later, a small collection of photos, magazine articles, and letters detail the experience.

The Guth family was something of a river legend, having been one of the first families to guide rafters down the Middle Fork of the Salmon. Paula married into the Guth family and, subsequently, a lifetime of adventure.

“Some of the other boat people got movie stars,” she laughed. “We got politicians all the time.”

But, Guth said, rafting with the Carter family was definitely the most memorable.

“Governor [Cecil] Andrus was the U.S. Secretary of Interior and a friend of President Carter,” she said. “[Andrus] had been on the trip before, and he recommended it to the President.”

So, the Carter family flew to Idaho for a three-day trip down the Middle Fork – Secret Service in tow. Guth said Carter had a whole entourage, with a White House photographer, nurse and secretary.

Guth said preparing for the trip took months, considering all the necessary safety precautions. Members of the family were unable to tell anybody about the trip.

“[The Secret Service] sent us a map of the Middle Fork and said, ‘mark any place where a sniper could hide,'” she said. “Well, that was a pretty ridiculous question. We wrote back ‘any place, the whole distance on either side of the river.'”

The trip was a nice reprieve for the First Family, Paula said. But just because they were on vacation didn’t mean President Carter could shirk presidential duties.

“[Carter] carried this suitcase so that if he had to declare war, he could have done it,” she said. “So, he was prepared to take care of America even though he was back there in nowhere.”

As the years tick by, Guth’s small collection of trip mementos reminds her of the trip of a lifetime. She has two letters signed by Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter.

One of those letters thanked Guth for a handmade painting of the river she sent the Carter family after the trip. She said Rosalynn told her it was hanging in one of the family rooms of the White House.

“That’s my 15 minutes of fame,” she said.

Guth is just one Idahoan who got the chance to meet Carter, a leader she called a “nice, regular down-home person.”

At 98, President Carter is the oldest living former American president. He’s now getting end-of-life care at his home in Plains, Georgia.

During his political career, Carter visited Idaho three times — in 1974, 1976 and 1978.

Original article can be found at:

Skip to content