By Jim Stanford on July 23, 2012
Dick Barker, the river guide and musician who built one of the most successful rafting businesses in Jackson Hole, died this morning at his home in Moose, after battling cancer for several years. He was 75 years old.
Originally from Ohio, Barker began spending his summers at his grandparents’ house on Ditch Creek as a boy. He learned to fly fish from his mother and stepfather, Joe Beerkle, and started guiding for Carmichael’s Tackle Shop in Moose in 1956.
In 1963, he and his wife, Barb, started their own float trip company, just as Frank and Patty Ewing went into business. The two families became partners in 1965, and Barker-Ewing grew to become synonymous with scenic and whitewater rafting in Jackson Hole.
Even in recent years Barker remained involved in the running of his business; he was the first person to grab the tools when trailer lights broke or something else needed fixing. This is the company’s 50th summer in Grand Teton National Park.
Although he had been undergoing chemotherapy the last two years, Barker’s health took a turn for the worse this spring, after he and Barb returned from a 50th wedding anniversary trip to Ireland. Infection and pneumonia landed him in the hospital. He came home to spend his final days beside Blacktail Butte, surrounded by family, a steady stream of visitors and the river he so loved.
With his passing, we have lost an encyclopedic memory of the history of Snake River rafting and, more broadly, Jackson Hole.
I’ll have more to write about Dick
in the coming days before the B-E 50th anniversary celebration in September. Until then, the trips must go on, as Dick would have wanted.