Meet the Entrepreneurial Family Behind Your Family’s Favorite Vacation

These days, when we think of a typical entrepreneur, visions of a startup with office ziplines and trendy product offerings come to mind, but Joe and Sue Greiner, owners of Wilderness Aware Rafting, have been channeling the entrepreneurial spirit striving for excellence in whitewater rafting (and so much more!) since the 80’s!

Believe it or not, the Wilderness Aware Rafting we know and love today was this close to never existing. Back in 1983 when owner, Joe Greiner, was a senior at Colorado State University he had a summer job lined up to be a backpacking instructor with his girlfriend (not yet wife) Sue. Fortunately for us, before taking off for the mountains he got a taste for whitewater rafting and never looked back.

At this time WA was very much so a summer hobby for the owners Bill and Jamie. The company was a passion project for the couple who worked as teachers during the off-season. There was a small team of only three boats and three guides. This level of intimacy allowed for the development of a deep philosophy focused on quality and safety. The emphasis on providing guests with a high level of personalized attention kept people coming back summer after summer.

In the summer of 1985, Joe and Sue got married and celebrated with the purchase of Wilderness Aware Rafting. In general, this was an exciting time for the whitewater rafting industry. It was exploding in popularity and there was a lot of growth occurring along rivers across the nation. WA maintained a consistent slow growth, standing out amongst the competition for the dedication to quality we still hold highly today. First time guests became regulars, visiting every summer. It was obvious then as it still is today, the Greiner family is extremely passionate. “For us, this is so much more than ‘just a business’, we are personally proud of the result of our continuous efforts over the years.” Joe explains.

When Sue became an owner, she immediately learned guiding skills and was a shining star 1st year guide while at the same time figuring out how to own a company. “It was stressful at times to be the owner and at the same time being a rookie” says Sue. It was no time at all before she excelled and became a trip leader. After about 10 years of guiding and being involved in every aspect of the company, she spent more time managing the office and raising the boys. She remains a key behind the scenes decision maker and handles the accounting.

With this intertwinement of family and business, it can be challenging to distinguish the two at home. Fortunately, this has been extremely advantageous for the Greiners and their two sons, Ben and Ethan. They learned to value experiences over possessions. Sue explains “It’s tough to say whether many of our family values have carried over into the business, or if our dedication to pursuing excellence for WA has spilled over into our family. Growing up, the boys both had their own personal desire to become guides the moment they were old enough. Dinner table conversations often revolved around the theme of working hard both in school and beyond the classroom. We talked a lot about the difference between wants and needs, something our rafting trips to rural villages along the rivers of third world countries really solidified with the boys.” Today, both sons are in their 20’s and have logged thousands of river miles guiding guests on whitewater rafting adventures.

One of the biggest challenges that Joe and Sue face is the grey line that comes with pursing wants versus needs in terms of quality. Along with the rest of the team at WA, they feel a deep dedication to always seek ways for improving processes and providing guests with the best possible experience. When you visit the Buena Vista headquarters, the goal is to provide quality at every touch point. WA is the only whitewater rafting outfitter to offer a complimentary breakfast before you kick off your trip. They are one of the few who thoroughly sanitizes rental gear every day. They take pride in the shiny green shuttle busses and properly maintained boats and gear. Another major focus has been taking care of their guides as well – providing them with summer housing so they aren’t forced to live out of a tent in the parking lot in exchange for pursuing their passions.

Joe says, “I am extremely proud of the fact that we have grown our mailing list from several hundred guests to over 60,000 since purchasing Wilderness Aware. We didn’t get into this for the money. We’re here for the quality of life. I am so proud to provide a product people want and to show the world this is who Sue and I are.”

Colorado Rafting River Guide:

Colorado Rafting River Guide
Check out our detailed information about the rivers you can raft across Colorado.

What Our Guests Say:

Best time I’ve had on the river in the past 15 years!!!! Will return soon!!!
Dylan S.
Family friend always said Wilderness Aware Rafting was the best. I totally agree!
Angie D.
Your internet advertising was great. People who answered the phone very helpful and the guides top notch. Seems like your manager has done a wonderful job. I see why you are a successful company.
Phil G.
We’ve been with a lot of different rafting companies over the years and we have never used the same company twice but everyone on the trip agreed that your company is the best!
Lisa P.
It was the best first experience in rafting. Ben was awesome!! Five stars!
Kirby S.
Appreciate your professional and fun staff! Will definitely return next year!
Dana Q.
I want to raft again and again and well you get the point…again.
Levi V.
The entire staff from reservations to first contact to trip guide was friendly and helpful. Our Scouts had an outstanding time!
Ken T.
Matt was the most enthusiastic and exciting guide I have ever had… and I have done this a lot.
Carl M.
The trip, your people, your facility never get old.
Fred P.
Sarah was fantastic! Very knowledgeable and very fun! Best trip ever, even the low water! We will be back again!
Barbara L.
Been rafting six times around the country. Best trip and guide so far.
James H.
I work in safety – wish I could get all our regional safety folks to present their safety meetings with the same enthusiasm and professionalism.
Karla S.
I would like to commend your staff on their great teamwork and enthusiasm. This was the highlight of our trip to Arizona.
Michele E.
We have rafted round the world and this is by far the best—best trained guides, best safety, best food, best fun. Thanks.
Jane H.
We feel we have found new friends in Wilderness Aware and plan on spending time in the future with you.
Susie S.
We had an awesome time. I would definitely recommend your company!
Leona H.
One of the best times of my life!
Dylnn R.
We booked our trip cold off the internet and found from the very beginning a very friendly and courteous staff that helped out and answered all our questions.
Carolyn W.
Pete was great. Extremely friendly and he took great care of us and really put our group first. Our trip was relaxing and fun!
Erin L.
This trip surpassed all of my expectations.
Amy B.
I loved my experience at WA and will definitely be back with more people.
Cory D.
From the enthusiastic greetings when we arrived at the office this am, all service was top notch.
John D.
Frenchie was the best guide I’ve ever had! This is a great company and I will definitely be telling friends about it!
Jamin R.
This company is quality. Six years ago I did the same trip with Jack, Ian, and Kelly and the quality is as good today.
Chris G.
Sarah, our guide, was the consummate professional.
Becky M.
I love the staff!! Very entertaining and welcoming. This was a great rafting experience. I want to come back tomorrow and do it again!
Bailey W.
We started rafting with you in 1988. This is our fourth trip. Will be back.
Jim L.
Very pleasant and enjoyable experience. Rafted four other times and this was the best.
Linda H.
Your staff and guides were so helpful and so much fun. My kids ranked that half-day trip as the highlight of our month long trip!
Patty G.
This was my first rafting experience and you guys made it awesome! Thank you so much!
Jamie L.
Good job, as usual. Our 5th or 6th trip with WA. Big fans of WA.
Tim S.
Thanks for the great time on the river. You do a super job of taking care of your crews.
Jan P.
We had an awesome time! All staff we dealt with were very personable and helpful. I can’t imagine anything you could do to improve!
Rusty B.
I started rafting at WA in 1999 and have always had a good time. I highly recommend WA to anyone who wants to raft.
Marty E.
You are great to work with and your guides are fun to be around and well trained. Each experience I’ve had with you (3) has been excellent.
Dawn R.
This was the highlight of our trip to Colorado!
Beth G.
I have rafted with other companies before but I found your company and Mike, our guide, to be outstanding! I will be back!
Joe M.
When I made our reservation I knew we were going to have a fantastic time. Everything that happened today exceeded my expectations.
Mark E.
Very professional yet very informal approach—not an easy combination to sustain—nice team—office included.
Mark W.

Recent Blog Posts: