July 5, 1999… It was a spectacular day on the Kennebec River with the water running a huge 10,200 cfs Four boats of the 11 boat camp kid trip were guided by one family: a father, a mother, a son and a daughter.
Bill Cost was guiding the second boat in the Wilderness Expeditions trip. His wife, Cori, and her children, Richard Bradshaw and Susan Bradshaw, were guiding right behind him.
“Eight grand is fun, but 10 grand is wild,” Bill said. “It was so heart pumping, it was exciting. It was just unbelievable.”
“Picture a boat load of 12-year-old camp kids,” said Cori. “It was scary! There were flipped boats all over the river with people everywhere.”
Because of the massive amount of water going down the Kennebec that day, several of Wilderness’ boats were co-guided. Caroline Forenza was with Cori and Bruce Cuneen was with Susan. Richard, on the other hand, just told his crew to hold on and he took them the whole way down, said Cori.
“It’s neat to have all your children together because they disappear over the years,” said Cori.
And the family of guides has grown over the years, as many of their children – and the children’s spouses – have become guides.
Richard and Susan were the first children to become guides. Although she still holds her Maine license, Susan has mostly been guiding trips on the southern portion of the Colorado River for the last three years.
Richard’s companion, April, was next to become a guide, followed by Amanda Cost, her companion Chad, and Tom Cost. Rodney Cost, whose companion Lisa is already a guide, would be the tenth guide of the extended family.
The whitewater bug started 17 years ago when Cori mentioned to Bill about whitewater guide training. They were both teaching at Mount Ararat High School at the time, and being in his 40s, Bill initially blew off the idea. A couple weeks later they stopped at Unicorn Expeditions, and after seeing some whitewater pictures and talking with Jay Schurman, Bill finally caved in. Their first whitewater experience was on the Penobscot River.
“We were so dumb we didn’t even know enough to be afraid,” said Bill of his and Cori’s first rafting experience.
Bill and Cori took whitewater guide training courses in 1986. That June they both passed their whitewater and recreation guide tests. The following year they did overnight trips for Unicorn. Later, they managed the Wilderness base, and then ended their “full-time” rafting career with Professional River Runners in 1997.
After spending so many years on the river, Cori said she and her husband realized a few things: they work well together as a team; and they did not want to run a rafting company. So in 1996 they began construction on Inn by the River, which opened in 1997. Cori retired from Madison High School in 2001 following Bill who had retired in 1993.
They both still guide when rafting companies are in a pinch, and Bill continues to do a fair amount of overnight trips. Cori also paddles a canoe for New England Outdoor Center, shuttling Appalachian Trail hikers across the Kennebec River in Caratunk.
When asked what her most exciting event has been in her 17 years of guiding, she simply replied, “I’m still alive,” with a great big smile.
At 62-years-old, Bill is one of the oldest whitewater guides in the country. He is also licensed in New York and has run the Gauley River in West Virginia and the Grand Canyon.
Bill said as both schoolteachers and whitewater guides, they are required to have a tremendous amount of patience and responsibility; yet, whitewater rafting teaches children respect and teamwork in a fun and realistic environment.
“People learn the responsibility of taking care of people,” he said. “Turning kids on to the wilderness experience is so very important.”
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