Colleen Adams

MEET Colleen

I got into running rivers through working on water law and policy issues. Instead of going to law school graduation, I went on a Grand Canyon trip and after that, I had to become a guide.

This is my second year as a guide, but I work part-time because I have a fancy job providing legal assistance in tribal court and protecting tribal water quality. Working as a guide forges a totally different relationship with rivers than the law and policy side of things does, but honestly, I just like hanging out with folks for a couple of hours and trying to grease my lines.

What is your favorite river and why?

My favorite river is the Colorado! The lifeblood of the West, and the source of several of the wildest nights of my life. Working on the Rio Grande is special to me because of its wild and scenic status, the ferry moves, and because I have really great coworkers. On the Racecourse, my favorite section is the Narrows. The ferry move is spicy, but you get rewarded with some juicy wave trains.

And your favorite river-related story?

R2ing the Gauley with my best friend. Anytime I’m having a bad day, I think about what an amazing trip that was.

What are your other interests, hobbies or passions and why are they important to you?

I like canyoneering, making mixed drinks, and compiling playlists. Unless I’m on the water, I usually have one headphone in. I also do little bits of legal work for my friends, coworkers, and neighbors. It’s evil that our society gatekeeps knowledge and maintains power hierarchies by charging people the price of a house to go to school, so it’s important to use your skills to help people in need. River karma applies everywhere 🙂

What certifications or degree do you have?

River-wise, I’ve got my CPR/First Aid, a Leave No Trace cert, and I’m getting my Swiftwater Rescue cert summer 2021. I trained for 150 hours before taking my first customers down the river. I’ve guided in Colorado and New Mexico.

Lawyer-wise, I have a law degree with a concentration in environmental, energy, and natural resources law and policy. I like to focus on issues where federal environmental law, tribal law, and federal American Indian law intersect – land management, water quality, upstream flow and pollution, climate change mitigation, environmental permitting, reclamation, and remediation, etc. I litigate in tribal and federal court. I also do legal assistance work for folks – defending against evictions and repossessions, public benefits, wills and probate, civil rights, family law stuff, etc.


Colleen in Action

Colleen Adams


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