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Massive rockslide impacts business for Riggins rafting companies amid COVID-19 pandemic

“I book some trips and then cancel some trips, it's not the best year to own your own business in this kind of environment," said one rafting outfitter in Riggins.

RIGGINS, Idaho —
In addition to setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses in Riggins are now dealing with a massive rockslide on Highway 95.

Matt Laine, owner of Wild River Adventures, has been in business for 11 years, but this year the pandemic has him treading rough and unknown waters.

“It's been quiet, we had a lot of cancellations coming from the South,” Laine said. "I book some trips and then cancel some trips. It's not the best year to own your own business in this kind of environment.”

Like Laine, Mark Christensen is in a similar situation. Christensen owns and operates Salmon River Experience in Riggins, and says he understands exactly what Laine is experiencing. 

“This year's been an interesting one overall," Christensen said. "We're not even looking to hit a home run, we're looking to pay the mortgage this year and hopefully be able to operate next year."

Both businesses are now feeling the implications of less business. First because of the pandemic, and now the rockslide. 

“Two steps forward, three steps back,” Laine said. 

RELATED: Significant movement on rockslide forces ITD to close Highway 95 again

Last Friday, the rockslide shutdown Highway 95. It happened right before the Fourth of July weekend, which is typically a busy time for rafting. 

“On the rafting side we really tried to make it work with a lot of people," Christensen said. "We didn’t get any walk in business, which we normally would, and then overall in town the restaurants and grocery stores all did maybe a tenth of the business of what they normally would for that weekend."

Christensen added that since the pandemic, Salmon River Experience has been getting by with business from people who are within a four-hour traveling range.

The recent rockslide, however, is blocking his business in more ways than one. 

“Riggins is at that point where we've cancelled all of our major events for the whole season and tourism is a big part of our economy's lifeblood here," Christensen said. "So whatever we can get that works we really need to keep steadying the course with." 

Both business owners have a message for anyone who is planning on visiting the city. 

“People who are coming up, whether they are coming up with my company or coming up to sight see or going with another company, just keep coming," Laine said. "We'll deal with the delays, our pocket books can’t take any more damage. So if you got a trip booked, work with us and we'll make it happen."

“We're willing to work with people even if it means picking them up on the other side of the road closure or coaching them through getting here, [even] rescheduling timing on trips,” Christensen said.

RELATED: University of Idaho geologist discusses cause of rockslide near Riggins

RELATED: ITD: Highway 95 near Riggins closed after 120-foot rock slide

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