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Desert River Guides looks to be part of greater movement in bolstering outdoor recreation

FARMINGTON — Desert River Guides looks to be part of a greater movement as summer inches closer: help spearhead Farmington’s outdoor recreation industry, which is emerging as a focal point amid the city’s economic revival.

The co-owners, Cody Dudgeon and Ryan Dudgeon, envision ample opportunity because of the natural landscape.

The Animas River. The San Juan River. The surrounding trails. The overall scenery.

“We have a lot of really good access to the rivers… We have some good rapids here in town… the more you use a resource like a river, the more you put people on it, the more you expose people to that type of industry, the more it’s going to draw tourism to the town,” Cody Dudgeon said.

More: Organizers hoping for good response to inaugural Animas River Jam

And as COVID-19 vaccination efforts continue, paired with the desire to get out into nature, DRG hopes its initial rafting tours and impending grand opening over Memorial Day weekend will be merely the start of what’s to come.

“What better way than getting a rafting company into town that has two rivers? We figured we might as well give it a shot,” Ryan Dudgeon said. “I don’t really see a lot of people using the river, and so we’re hoping to just open that gateway to get people to enjoy a different part of Farmington that they may not know about.”

A greater purpose

Ryan Dudgeon said rafting has a chance to become that next activity for people that need a “psychological break” after more than a year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. And after spending a decade doing rafting tours in Missoula, Montana, before returning back home to Farmington, she said she hopes to see similar excitement for rafting here in Farmington.

“There’s definitely a niche here for it, and we’re just trying to tap into it,” Ryan Dudgeon said, adding the improving status ended up giving DRG “leg up” going forward. “We’re definitely looking at the long term… We’re putting our heart and soul into this to make this a thing for this community.”

Aside from helping showcase the city’s outdoor recreation scene, Ryan Dudgeon also said she hopes the proximity to downtown Farmington in turn leads people to the locally-owned restaurants and art blocks.

More: Free training offered for women with ideas for outdoor recreation businesses

Spotlighting outdoor recreation

Cody Dudgeon said rafting will only help “spotlight” Farmington’s efforts to diversify its economy by diversifying its outdoor recreation scene, showing there’s more than just activities like mountain biking.

“It’s an outdoor recreation bonanza... We’re looking to sort of promote the change in the economy here in Farmington,” he said. “As things are differentiating, it gives us more job opportunities for our young people to stay in town, it gives them an opportunity to learn something new, and it gives everybody another resource that we can make use of that will benefit the people of Farmington and the local surrounding area.”

‘There’s been a lot of enthusiasm’

Ryan Dudgeon said the rafting here in Farmington will be more “family-friendly” compared to Durango because it’s more scenic and the rapids are less intimidating.

“It’s stunning, it’s gorgeous… you get that natural feeling,” she said. “There’s been a lot of enthusiasm from people that have seen us and a lot of encouragement.”

Cody Dudgeon said he thinks outdoor recreation activities like rafting will be the next step forward in Farmington’s “evolution” as a town.

More: Memorial Day weekend festival planned along Animas River

“That expands the jobs market to a new area. We also will see increased tourism coming up to the area to use the hotels… it draws tourism to the area because we have more than one thing going,” he said. “People want to get outside. They want to do something different. They want to find a new niche to get active… having the bright blue sky above and cool, clear river below you is one of the best ways to get out and recreate.”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports and business for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577, and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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