River Riders keeps kids active in the summertime

November 30, 1999|By Shannon Epps

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories about summer activities for children.

Gus Thomson said his mom prefers him to be active over the summer instead of sitting around the house.

"She likes to have us do things in the summer besides ... watch TV," the 11-year-old said.

To keep him active, she sends him to River Riders Outdoor Adventure Camp.

The summer day camp is an extension of River Riders, a licensed professional whitewater guide service in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., near the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. Campers participate in rafting, canoeing, kayaking, tubing and biking.

Matt Knott, co-owner of River Riders, said he started the summer program five years ago because he wanted local youngsters to have more opportunities to go on the rivers than he did while growing up in the area.


"I grew up here and I felt there was limited opportunity to get on the river," Knott said. "So when I had the opportunity to offer that to other kids, I thought it was a good opportunity to let them experience it."

The camp has general sessions, called Adventure Weeks, during which campers engage in several activities offered through River Riders. The other weeks are specialty weeks, each focusing on a different activity, such as rafting or kayaking.

Ian Lienhard, 13, participated in Junior Guide Week, a specialty week during which he and seven other campers learned to be rafting guides.

Ian, who has been attending Outdoor Adventure Camp for four years, said it is different from typical summer camps and is a welcome alternative to other summer activities.

"I think this camp has much more of an activity range. You do more things instead of just staying home," he said.

Adam Shirley, 22, camp director and lead counselor, began working with the camp this year. He previously worked with Blue Ridge Outfitters, but took a position at River Riders because he wanted to be closer to the action, he said.

"(At Blue Ridge Outfitters) I was an operations manager, and I was at the shop telling people what to do, having to drive vehicles all day long and answer phones," Shirley said. "I just wanted to get back out and be on the river five days a week, which is a lot more enjoyable."

Ian said the counselors at the camp get more involved with the campers than counselors at other camps he has attended.

"They'll teach us different things that they know, and they'll have fun with us and not just sit off to the side," he said.

Gus said he likes the counselors' easygoing attitudes.

"They don't yell at you, they're not harsh, they're not mean," he said.

While the counselors encourage the campers to have fun, Shirley said safety is a main focus.

"We do conduct everything in a safe manner, and that's one of the key things we push throughout the whole week, is you can go out here and do all of these activities that we do, and do them safely," he said.

River Riders provides shuttles for campers traveling from Shepherdstown, Charles Town and Martinsburg in West Virginia, Hagerstown, Frederick, Md., and Winchester, Va. The shuttles pick up campers in the morning and drop them off in the evening.

Participants are still able to sign up on a weekly basis, and there is ample room for more campers, Shirley said.

Gus said he is looking forward to Junior Guide Week.

"I expect it to be worthwhile, fun, and I hope to learn something," he said.

If you go ...

WHAT: River Riders Outdoor Adventure Camp

WHEN: Through the week of Aug. 13

WHERE: River Riders, 68 Alstadts Hill Road, Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers

COST: $159 to $319, depending on the week

MORE: For more information, call River Riders at 800-326-7238 or go to

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