O.A.R.S. aims to make more outdoor experiences available to young people. Photo courtesy O.A.R.S.

The West’s Best Beach Town? Best Hotel Pool? Campground We Can't Stay Away From? Most Outrageous Roadside Attraction? (No, it’s not the Bingham Canyon Open Pit Mine.)

This week, we announced the winners of our first-ever Sunset Travel Awards. You can read about them in our June issue or online at

We were looking to honor destinations and travel experiences for excellence and innovation. We also kept in mind how Western, how complete, and how current they were.

We didn’t really consider their community spirit. But had we, that would've only burnished the already lustrous credentials of O.A.R.S., the global river-rafting outfitter based in Angels Camp, California. O.A.R.S. won for Best Guided Outdoor Trip (Salmon River), impressing our judges with their experience, their attention to detail, and their ironclad reputation for delivering once-in-a-lifetime trips.

Now comes word that the company will donate 1 percent of its sales to the National Park Foundation, which raises funds to support and protect our national parks. Part of that organization’s mission is to “inspire the next generation of park stewards,” and to that end it will work with O.A.R.S. on providing indelible trips for young people who haven't had much exposure to the Western wilderness.

Where will these trips go? Oh, just toYellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Crater Lake. And to Dinosaur National Monument and Arches, Canyonlands, and Grand Teton National Parks. Says O.A.R.S. founder George Wendt: “Our goal is to play a role in making park experiences possible for young people and to help them develop a passion for the outdoors.”

So hats—baseball caps, sou’westers, slouch hats—off to O.A.R.S. for winning a Travel Award and for giving back to the community.





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