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Raft the River


Written by
Kathryn Smith

This winter saw a lot of snow. Come summer that snowpack will turn into raging rivers across the Pacific Northwest that can provide fun for all. James Moore, founder of Orion River Rafting, is ready with his crew of skilled guides to take Bellevue Club members on a wild ride.

The Outfit

Growing up in Texas, Moore says the story of how he discovered whitewater rafting is convoluted, but it boils down to a month-long rafting trip he took down the Colorado River. “I basically fell in love with the idea then,” he says. Determined to work in the recreation business, he wound up in Bellingham at Western Washington University. “To graduate, I had to come up with an internship. They don’t normally consider starting a business an internship, but somehow I got around the rules and started a rafting company,” Moore says. “It was meant to be a multi-sport company—we were going to do bicycle touring, horseback riding and rafting—but for whatever reason it was rafting that stuck. That’s what we became in ‘78, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

The Reason

“For me, rafting brings people together. It’s an easy way to get people outdoors,” Moore says. “It’s really exhilarating; it’s sort of like being on a roller coaster, but with no track. When you share that experience with friends, family, coworkers, or even strangers, it’s a bonding experience, even just for three or four hours.” Moore adds that while general fitness can help people enjoy the experience, rafting is accessible to virtually everyone. He warmly encourages first-time boaters to come out for an adrenaline rush on the river.

The Setting 

Decades after opening, Moore still believes the Pacific Northwest is one of the best regions in the world for rafting and never considered leaving. “We have a wide variety of environments in Washington. Between the west side and east side you get two pretty different stark contrasts, with heavily forested over-strewn rivers on the west side and the drier east side where the rivers are bigger, less woods, bigger waves, more sunshine. You can experience a quiet float on the Olympic Peninsula or head into high dessert country with the ponderosa pine. I think that’s what I love about it most,” Moore says.

The Trips

The majority of the trips Orion offers are good beginner trips, the easiest being the Skagit River, which Moore describes as mostly a float with a quarter-mile stretch of class-three waves. It’s a great option for families with small children. Other trips head down the Methow River, Wenatchee River, Tietin River, Deschutes and more. 

“The Sauk is a fun one because it has a few more boulders, and there’s more maneuvering. There’s still not a lot of skill needed,” Moore says. For those looking for a big thrill, he adds there are also a few advanced trips that are known by word of mouth only.

The Guides

According to Moore, Orion is the only rafting company in Washington State that offers a guide training program. All the guides partake in several field trips, sampling all the different rivers in Oregon and Washington. Coming from all walks of life, Moore likens the group to a family of outdoor enthusiasts. “Due to all the snow this year, it’s going to be a great season. There will be high water early on and then continue on for a great summer,” Moore says. “And we’re ready to get you out there.”

For more information, please visit 


Member Deal

Bellevue Club members are eligible for a special discount on rafting trips throughout the NW region including the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth, Sauk River in Darrington, Methow River in Chelan and Tieton River in the Yakima! Select one of the amazing experiences at and enter promo code BC2017RAFTING upon check out to receive the discount. Tax is to be paid at the time of registration, and all other trip fees will be billed directly through your Bellevue Club Membership.

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