SPECIAL SECTION: It’s a lifestyle for this female whitewater rafting guide

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By Deborah Swearingen

Editor's note: This story is part of a special section published in the Courier on March 1. The section highlights ten women working in traditionally male-dominated fields across Jefferson and Clear Creek counties.

In the rushing waters of Clear Creek, Eva Lambert found a home.

While on her first whitewater rafting trip in 2006, the boat containing Lambert and her family wrapped, pinned between an immovable object and the water and forcing the group to swim to shore. Tumbling into the water may have frightened some, but Lambert found it thrilling and immediately began searching for opportunities to return to the water.

A solution soon became apparent. Lambert, 32, of Golden went through training with Mile Hi Rafting in Dumont in 2007 and has been a guide ever since. For four years, she also was on the United States women’s whitewater rafting team, which raced in competitions across the world and recently placed fifth in the 2017 world competition in Japan.

Among guides, Lambert is a minority. Though statistics are not readily available, the whitewater rafting industry is known to be male-dominated. The guide team changes some each season, but Lambert is one of two female guides listed on Mile Hi’s website.

“When I was in training, actually, that was something I was taught,” she said. “… As a female, you’re not going to be typically as strong as the male, so you kind of learn to read the water a little better and use it to your advantage.”

Mile Hi is a family-oriented business, and Lambert has experienced nothing but support from her coworkers during rafting season. Interactions with customers are the only instances Lambert can recall feeling as though her abilities came into question.

“I had an intermediate trip for a bachelor party, and these guys – I had six dudes in my boat; big, strong – and they looked at me like, you’re going to be our guide?” Lambert recalled. “… I’ve found with customers, they can be a little shocked. But all of the guys I work with are my brothers.”

Despite the lack of female presence, Lambert has found being a female can serve as an advantage. On rafting trips, she has noticed girls tend to be more intimidated, and generally speaking, less assertive in the rapids. This became a teaching opportunity for Lambert.

“I saw that it was a really great way to teach girls how to be assertive in sports because you need it,” she said.

For young girls interested in guiding, Lambert has one main piece of advice.

“Go for it,” she said.

“It can be risky, so take it seriously,” Lambert added. “But it can also be a lot of fun if you are taking it seriously.”

Ask the guide what she loves most about the job, and her response comes with ease.

“The water,” she said, smiling. “… You’re very in the moment.”

In fact, Lambert has come to crave the adrenaline rush associated with successfully making it through a swirling rapid.

“You’ll see a big hole, and it’s intimidating at first,” she said. “But then once you go through it, and you realize how sturdy the boats are, how solid your crew is, it’s addicting.”