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A brief history of Grand Canyon Youth

Grand Canyon Youth was founded by three professional river guides — Fritz, Martha, and Jon — who realized there were limited opportunities for young people on the river.

These guides saw firsthand the positive impact the river had on those few who were fortunate enough to experience it. Finding a way to ensure that youth had access to this special place became their objective. They pooled their enthusiasm and resources in the river community, and what began as an idea became a wonderful reality when the pilot trip launched in 1998. Following this trip, they recruited a Board of Directors and applied to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Grand Canyon Youth was completely run by volunteers until the hiring of our Executive Director, Emma Wharton, in 2003. Since its humble beginning over a decade ago, as Grand Canyon Youth has continued to evolve, we have remained true to our original belief: All youth, regardless of background, can benefit from time on the river.

The youth participants are truly the heart of our organization. Many of our alumni have become like family, keeping in touch as they go through college and out into the world. There are countless stories of past participants who have chosen their field of study based on their experience as part of our program. Some return to guide for us while others volunteer their time. We look forward to seeing what exciting opportunities the future holds for them and for our organization.

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