“Canoe liveries didn’t do any favors for people interested in fishing, paddling, viewing wildlife, photography, camping, family get togethers or introducing young kids to the river.”
I disagree. Liveries aren’t all bad. I’ve met a lot of nice people when I’ve used liveries.
My own experience with liveries and outfitters is different than yours but then again I have the sense to avoid peak times. If I’m part of the crowd, that’s my fault. Not theirs.
So you’re putting on a popular river. On a saturday or holiday weekend, at let’s say 10:00 am. It is june or july… and you’re surprised you are part of crowd?
As an experienced paddler, I’ve paddled in some large group events and it wasn’t to difficult to find some space by getting out ahead or behind “the throngs of river lice.” Just cruise to the open space and stay there.
I spent four or five days paddling the current river in March at high water. We used an outfitter to run shuttle. We didn’t see anybody else. We did however, have to talk the outfitter into doing the shuttle and had to assure him that we knew what we were doing with the water being up. So when you go makes as big a difference as where you go. On that we can agree. On who’s fault it is when it doesn’t work out, on that we disagree.
Usually I paddle the stream less traveled, but occasionally it makes sense to rent. I’ve had positive rental experiences or used liveries to shuttle on the Current Mo, Niobrara Ne, Whitewater and Sugar Creek In, Little Miami and Mad Oh, Okefenokee (stephen foster) in Ga, Upper Iowa and Yellow in Ia, Yough in Pa, and several of the springs in Florida. I’m glad I went to those places and I had fun and have gone back to many of those places.
I don’t hesitate to pay for a raft seat with a commercial outfitter when I want to see and experience a stretch of river that is above my physicality and skill. You see for me, it’s not about the boat, or how much better I am or worse than others, it’s just about being out there.
Yes, a crowd can change that experience, but it can also be very entertaining. Sometimes the “wildlife” doesn’t have feathers or scales but it still scenic (skimpy swimsuits)… and how else would I have learned that pop sinks and beer floats, or that holding boats together with your appendages in rapids isn’t a good idea; or that it is possible to sit backwards in a canoe with your feet jammed in the stern? That you can propel a boat with both hands on the paddle shaft, have the blade barely submerged, sweeping outward away from the boat? That it is possible to bounce from bank to bank and still finish before dark…all that sounds and looks a lot like my first trip. Been hooked ever since.