GCPBA Board of Directors

Meet GCPBA's Board of Directors - veteran boaters dedicated carrying out the GCPBA mission, serving as a voice for the non-commercial private river running community, working to preserve and expand opportunities for boaters in the Grand Canyon and other Southwestern rivers.

President - Rich Harter

Born in 1952 in Indiana, not a particularly great white water state, I took my first trip in 1966 on the Wolf River in Wisconsin. After canoeing for the next 25 years, and after moving to Arizona, I started running the Salt in 1992.

My wife and I took a commercial oar trip from Phantom down in 1997 and we were both hooked. After a couple of other commercial trips I purchased my first oar rig and have been running inter-mountain west rivers ever since. I have six Grands total and have been politically active in river management issues since 1998.

I view my service to the private boaters through GCPBA as a way to give others the chance to enjoy what I love so much. As I have stated in the past, I will continue to fight for more access for the private boater and try to represent their interests in my dealings with the NPS.

Rich Harter


Vice President - John Vrymoed

I was born and raised in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; graduated from the University of CA, Davis with a BS and MS in Civil Engineering; retired from the CA Dep’t Water Resources in 2008.   Happily married, raised 3 kids – who are now in their early 30’s.

Prior to retirement I had done about 6 or 7 Grand Canyon trips, starting in the mid 70’s, along with a host of trips down the Rogue, Middle Fork of the Salmon, Main Salmon, Green, Owyhee and Snake Rivers.  Having retired, I decided to continue boating with an emphasis on the GC, which I’ve been able to do every year thanks to the folks who have invited me to join them on their permits.  They’ve all been great adventures.  More importantly, I’ve met and enjoyed the company of fellow boaters and I hope to continue doing so in the future.

I joined the GCPBA in order to help build on past successes such as the 2006 CRMP as well as to continue and enhance the rapport with the NPS.  Proposals such as the Escalade, Uranium mining, Hualapai upriver runs, west-end development, etc. require that we, as private boaters, work in concert with other organizations to protect this unique and special place.

Blakely++Photo (536x800)

Secretary - Blakely LaCroix

A life long resident of Minnesota, I have always been surrounded by water. Known for its 10,000 lakes, Minnesota is also home to more than 6000 rivers and streams.  Given the   bounty of rivers and forest, a sense of wanderlust and the need to discover, it was inevitable that I would become a river runner.

I bought my first raft in 1994 for river tripping family vacations.  Our first trip was on the 140 mile Wild and Scenic segment of the Missouri River in Montana, retracing the return journey of Lewis and Clark.  Every year since, we have spent our family vacation rafting a desert river as often as the permits would allow.

In the summer of 1995, my wife gave me an early birthday present:  a 14 day Western Rivers oar trip through Grand Canyon. I even got to row some of the flat water. With that trip, the hook was completely set.   My name went on the Waiting List.  Thirteen years later, in the 2008 lottery, I won a permit for my own trip through Grand Canyon. It was simply the greatest adventure of my life.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people and organizations who worked hard and worked together to make access to this incredible resource more equitable.

Now in my middle 60s’, I have reached a point in life where I can offer more than just financial support to the organizations that are important to me.  I welcome the opportunity to be of service to the GCPBA Board and to promote and advance the goals defined in its Mission Statement.

Having watched the successful work of the Friends of the Cheat in West Virginia I learned the importance of including all of the stakeholders in the resolution process. Studying the long debate over the creation of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Minnesota taught me that there can be no long term stable solutions except those achieved through compromise.  I think these are important lessons.  Co-operation and inclusion are essential to maintaining and advancing the interests of the private boater, as well as protecting and preserving Grand Canyon itself.

Blakely LaCroix

Wally Rist

I was born in 1941 in St. Louis, Missouri. My first view of the Grand Canyon was in June of 1958. I have been addicted ever since. My first Colorado River trip was in the summer of 1958. It was through Glen Canyon, a one boat 4 person 3 week trip.

Ten years later I took my first Grand Canyon River trip as a boatman rowing a Nevils Cataract boat for Mexican Hat Expeditions. My next trip was in 1970 rowing for Martin Litton. I rowed and led trips for Martin until about 1981. At that time I began my career in commercial real estate. I have made private trips in the Canyon in 1983, 1985, 2004, 2006, and 2008 for a total of 53 trips..

I was very active in Colorado River issues and politics until about 1985. From 1985 to about 2003 I stayed abreast of issues, made a few calls, and wrote my congressmen on occasions. Since 2003 I have been much more active in GC issues again, mostly in conjunction with GCPBA.

Currently, I live and am in the real estate business in the Kansas City area.

Wally Rist

Rich Turner

I was born in Chicago and spent all of my summers going to and working at a camp in one of Aldo Leopold’s sand counties of Wisconsin.  It was there that I fell in love with the outdoor world.

I first saw the Grand Canyon in 1955, when I was 9, and resolved then that I would spend the rest of my life where there were contour lines.  Between my junior and senior years at Knox College, I participated in a program at the newly opened National Outdoor Leadership School, based in Lander, Wyoming.   We spent 33 days hiking and climbing the length of the Wind River Range.  Our trip was led by the charismatic founder of NOLS, Paul Petzold.  I decided that I would return and go through the instructor’s course that Paul was setting up.  Then, after graduating from Knox, I would return to NOLS to work.  Upon graduating with a BA in History, Richard Nixon decided that my talents (or lack thereof) would be best suited to ridding the world of the communists hiding in the jungles of Viet Nam.  Immediately after returning home in 1971, some friends invited me to go along on Grand Canyon Dory trip.   Instead of going back to NOLS, I took the river trip.  It was on that trip that I met Martin Litton and essentially got hired to work for him as a boatman/guide.  I continued working for the Dories until 1986.  I have been doing private river trips on and off since 1980 (whenever I, or a friend could wangle a permit).  I was fortunate to have been on the river in 1983 when the Colorado was running 98,000 cfs.  It was an experience I wouldn’t have missed for anything, although I’m not sure I would want to repeat it.

In 1972, one of our dory passengers, a principal from Phoenix, hired me to teach 5th graders (probably not the best decision he ever made).  I earned my Masters Degree in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University, and after 36 years, I retired in 2008.  I live in both Phoenix and Flagstaff, and hope that this close proximity to the Canyon helps me contribute to GCPBA.

Rich Turner







Dave Mortenson - Treasurer

For many the Grand Canyon is a place they found on their own but I had a dramatic introduction. When I was 13 my father, who was a 1950s river runner, took me on my first hike into the Grand Canyon off the end of the Great Thumb to visit Keyhole Bridge. Only my father and Harvey Butchart had been there. A year later in 1962, we traveled down the wild Colorado River in our home-made boat before Glen Canyon Dam changed the river forever. Thus I became one of the 1800 people to go down some part of the wild Colorado through the Grand Canyon before it was dammed. It took years to realize how fortunate I had been. Over 51 years of Grand Canyon trips, my hiking focus has been on the remote western half of the Canyon. In the last ten years I've worked on fulfilling my desire to replicate historic Colorado River boats and then to run them though the Canyon. So far, five replica boats have been built and run down river with more boats and trips being planned.

My Grand Canyon passion on one hand is exploring and photographing the places nobody sees. On the other is my zeal to understand the history of those adventurers who proceeded my time in the Canyon. My half century of Colorado River and Grand Canyon experience has resulted in a great deal of first hand knowledge. Enjoyably, I've been able to share my experiences at river running, hiking and history gatherings. But, more importantly, I've learned much from others. Currently, I'm showing my documentary film "Big Water Runners of the Colorado River" about pioneers of private river trips through the Grand Canyon who ran on the highest water ever run in 1957 at 126,000 cfs.

Being a GCBPA Board member is a great responsibility and opportunity. All my river experiences have been on self guided trips. I was on the waiting list for years and I have put in for the lottery and know what it is to continue to "wait' for a launch date. Being a member since January 2001, I've followed the dialog daily and once in a while have jumped in the fray. Mostly, I read the daily summary, learned and absorbed the wisdom so many members have shared. Both my son and daughter are Grand Canyon river runners and hikers and my only grandchild, age 11, has already done two Colorado River trips running in the replica of her great-grandfather's first boat. Introducing and passing on my family heritage of private river running has been my greatest Grand Canyon experience.

Dave Mortenson


Helen Howard

Born into a family who believed that outdoor adventure was important, I started early on a lifetime outdoor journey. Beginning with backpacking and canoeing almost as soon as I could walk, I progressed to whitewater canoeing with my Dad at 7, whitewater kayaking at 14 and my first Grand Canyon River trip in a kayak when I was 20 in 1969. Carrying on this family tradition I am often joined by my kids and grand-kids for both whitewater kayaking and rafting trips when they can get away from their busy lives.

With a degree in Archaeology and a minor in engineering from Arizona State University, most of my professional career was working on more modern ruins as an insurance adjuster for Allstate Insurance Company. I worked both out of the Phoenix Office and various catastrophe offices around the country which gave me lots of extra time off between events which I spent hiking, kayaking or rafting, mostly in Grand Canyon. I’ve managed to take a total of 10 Grand Canyon River trips since that first one. In March 2014 I rowed a 16’ 3” replica of the historic dory Music Temple through the Grand Canyon after two friends and I spent three months measuring and designing the build and five months building her. Rowing her through the Grand Canyon fulfilled a dream I had since seeing the Grand Canyon Dories for the first time in 1974. I won a permit to row the Grand Canyon in 2014 at age 66, rather than at age 80, which I would have been under the old waiting list system. That trip I attribute directly to the GCPBA successful fight for more equitable access to the river for private boaters.

Over the years my passion for the outdoors has led me to attend almost every public hearing related to noise, access and a host of other issues related to the Grand Canyon and I have testified and provided written comments at a number of them. I have also been involved in access issues for other rivers in Arizona and California for a long time.

In 2004, when I retired from Allstate, I moved to Bullhead City, Arizona to open Desert River Kayak which is a lively business operating between Hoover Dam and Imperial Dam on the western border of Arizona. While we provide canoe, kayak and standup paddleboard trips for all ages, we specialize in scout, church and school age youth trips to train the next generation of children in the skills they need to access the rivers I have loved and used for over 50 years.

Over the years I have been active in a variety of charitable and social organizations such as Kiwanis, the Phoenix Ski Club, American Cancer Society, Colorado River Heritage Greenway Trail association and the Black Canyon National Water Trail Association, holding officer and board member positions in most of them. Currently I am the Chair of the Bullhead City Parks and Recreation Commission, an Advisory Board, for the city which I have held for seven years. I bring a wide range of skills and a hard work ethic to GCPBA and hope that I can positively affect additional access opportunities for the private boating community for the Grand Canyon, the place I hold dearest in my heart.

Helen Howard

2 Responses to GCPBA Board of Directors

  1. Eric Henrickson says:

    Question: How does a member update their mailing address?

    Eric Henrickson, Member #1424

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