You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

Skip to main content
Text Size:

Wild Blue Yonder Rafting operates two hours north of Jasper National Park in Grande Cache. Surrounded by mountains, wilderness, and three river valleys, Grande Cache is a rafter’s paradise. There are several rivers within a 30-minute drive of the town, so rafters spend less time on the bus and more time on the river. Certified guides at Wild Blue Yonder are whitewater rafting safety experts who know how to show guests a good time and keep them safe.

Gina Goldie, the company’s founder, oversaw updating the Alberta Rafting Safety Standards and co-authored COVID-19 Best Practices for Commercial River Operations, which is used in Alberta and British Columbia. With 23 years of safe operation on six different rivers, Wild Blue Yonder is one of the most reputable rafting companies in Western Canada. They offer several different rafting excursions in Alberta including one that lets you paddle rapids under the spectacular cliffs at Sulphur Gates.

We interviewed Goldie about how her business evolved during the pandemic, and her hopes for the future of tourism in Alberta.

What is the most valuable part of Alberta's tourism industry?

Although much of Alberta's tourism industry depends on our incredible natural environment, even outdoor adventure could not happen without thousands of dedicated staff, operators, managers, and owners. Everyone working to sustain the industry throughout this challenging time is the engine that drives Alberta tourism.

We know that Albertans will play a key role in the initial economic recovery of our local tourism industry, as health restrictions lift. What would you say to encourage Albertans to continue exploring their own backyard, even when it's possible to travel elsewhere again?


Other destinations will surely beckon, but I suspect most Albertans have not yet visited some of the diverse regions of our province. There are deserts and dinosaurs in the south, bison and cultural experiences centrally, two dynamic big cities, the northern boreal forest and the Rocky Mountains. Alberta has countless gems hidden away, waiting to be discovered. I would encourage people to prolong the slower pace of life that COVID-19 has brought by exploring close to home this summer.

Gina Goldie

Gina Goldie, Wild Blue Yonder
Gina Goldie

How did your business evolve during the pandemic? What changes or new aspects to your business will you take with you moving forward?

I was one of the two main authors of COVID-19 Best Practices for Commercial River Operations, because I'm president of the Professional River Outfitters Association of Alberta and on the executive for the British Columbia River Outfitters Association. This comprehensive document was approved for use in both provinces and gave much-needed direction to rafting companies. It outlined required procedural changes at bases, on trips, and for staff. The rafting industry in Western Canada has a long history of rigorous self-regulation, and COVID-19 Best Practices for Commercial River Operations was another example of that.

The main operational changes we will carry forward include increased sanitation and a communicable disease statement in our waivers. We look forward to the cessation of public health guidelines, such as masks and physical distancing, so we can again mingle groups in the rafts.

We know that health and safety are top of mind for everyone right now. How is your business preparing to give visitors peace of mind as restrictions lift?

This summer, we don't anticipate easing restrictions to the point where physical distancing and masks are not required. Therefore, we will be maintaining the standards outlined in COVID-19 Best Practices for Commercial River Operations. This document, as well as a summary of our COVID-19 policies, are featured on our website. All guests are asked to agree to the policies before booking a trip.

What are your hopes for the future of Alberta's tourism industry? How will your business play a role in that?

In January of 2019, the Alberta government planned to double tourism revenue within a decade. Although that may not be achievable given the impact of the pandemic on the industry, some of the strategies that emerged from that plan are tremendously valid as we recover from COVID-19. Alberta’s most significant opportunity for growth is in developing under-utilized regions of the province, especially those adjacent to the national parks. Global tourism indicators show that travellers will be looking for less-crowded, more rural areas, a trend that Alberta should focus on. As a regional tourism leader in such as area, our company fully supports this strategy.

How can industry work together to recover and build even stronger post-pandemic?

Innovative partnerships can help support recovery. Our company has partnered with our local Indigenous community. We are planning another collaboration with the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum to create a “Dino River Safari.” Building relationships and collaborating through local, regional, and provincial associations is more critical now than ever.

What do you wish the rest of the world knew about tourism in Alberta?


Something I feel sets our tourism industry apart is the genuine, down-to-earth friendliness of Albertans. With smaller numbers and less infrastructure, visitors are more likely to be dealing with an owner or a senior staff member. As an industry that is still trying to “make it,” those working in tourism often go that extra mile to make a good impression. Even just travelling around the province, I find Albertans to be exceptionally open and inviting.

Gina Goldie

What is your favourite "hidden gem" in Alberta?

Grande Cache and Willmore Wilderness Park, which is the size of Denmark and protects the northern part of the Rocky Mountains. The town sits at 1,280 metres (4,200 ft), one of the highest communities in Canada. We're surrounded by 21 mountains, giving beautiful views in every direction. But the real magic is in how quiet it is. Seeing others on a trail is rare. There's plenty of parking in staging areas. Although certainly, the amenities can't measure up to Jasper or Banff, the undeveloped, uncrowded mountain wilderness is rare and wonderful.

What is your favourite memory of travelling in Alberta?

In 2003, we explored the Smoky River right from its source – Adolphus Lake, near the base of Mount Robson. It was a first-descent for rafts, and it was epic! After flying our boats, equipment, food, and crew up to the British Columbia border, eight of us moved 725 kgs (1,600 lbs) of gear 11km (6.8 mi) to the river. That was the start of 12 days of deep backcountry travel. We knew people who were the only other group to paddle the route back in the 70s. With no trails and only 30-year-old notes, it was an adventure of a lifetime! Slot-canyons, waterfalls, and massive log jams had to be portaged. The carrying frames for the rafts had to be made from logs, discarded, and then made again. Some days were just all portaging through rough bush and down precarious slopes. But at the end of every day, warm and with full bellies, the camaraderie around the campfire made it all worth it.

You may also be interested in