Mobility-challenged in a Drift Boat? Absolutely!

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My buddy Joey loves too fly fish.  We have fished some of the great rivers in Idaho and Montana.  

Rafts and drift boats provide access to the wonders of the river, the scenery and the absolute joy of a day spent with friends pursuing trout with a fly rod.  

River trips with Joey are always an absolute joy, full of laughs and great conversations, maybe even some fish in the net.   

There are some challenges for Joey and I to make these awesome trips happen.  Joey is paraplegic, the result of injuries sustained in combat as a United States Marine. 

Getting Joey into the raft or drift boat requires lifting him from his chair to the tube or gunnel of the boat, getting into the boat and lifting him again to get him into a seat on the boat.   

Joey never seems at all bothered by the process. It has to happen to float the river. 

I look forward to every trip with Joey, excited for the day, the camaraderie shared among former Marines, the excitement of watching a trout take a dry fly off the surface.   

Huge blessings all around.   

At the beginning and end of every trip, my mind immediately goes to the potential to hurt Joey while moving him into or out of the boat.   

Since our first trip, I have always said there must be a better way to allow Joey access to the boat and river.   

This thought occupied my mind for years. 

In 2023, I decided that I wanted a drift boat that was wheelchair accessible.  A boat that would allow me to take Joey, or any mobility-challenged person on the river.   

I started researching accessible drift boats. I soon realized that this wasn’t going to be readily available.  I talked with all the major drift boat manufacturers, only two had a solid idea and plan. 

I opted to go with Koffler Boats out of Eugene Oregon.  Joe Koffler makes a boat called the Rocky Mountain Trout Boat.   

Joe proposed that we modify the front of the boat to open like a landing craft used by Marines during the battle of Iwo Jima.    

Mid-production Koeffler Accessible Drift Boat displaying the front of the boat, open like a landing craft. This boat allows accessibility by mobility-challenged persons.

The front of the boat drops down, leaving a ramp that we can roll the wheelchair up. The ramp will also benefit anyone with mobility challenges, as they will no longer have to step up and over the side of the boat to get in or out. 

Koffler began building the boat in early November of 2023. 

Koffler began building the boat in early November of 2023.  As I write this, the boat has just come out of the paint shop and we are waiting for the graphics for the exterior of the boat.   

Koffler accessible drift boat on a trailer. This boat allows accessibility by mobility-challenged persons.

Good things are coming very soon. 

Many people have “found a way” to share the river with mobility-challenged/wheelchair-bound folks. Spoken Outdoors has chosen to pursue accessibility.   

We no longer have to “accommodate” wheelchair folks, we have the equipment to encourage them, roll into the boat and experience the peace, power, and beauty of the river.   

Spoken Outdoors serves America’s Protectors by hosting events throughout the U.S. focusing on outdoor experiences that educate, stretch boundaries, challenge limits, and create confidence. Sign up for our newsletter or visit our website.

Heath Gunns

Executive Director of Spoken Outdoors | You can find him rowing a drift boat, fishing, or hunting. Over 15 years ago, he started in the non-profit sector letting him introduce the outdoors to so many people. Oh, and lets not forget his history as a Marine, Law Enforcement Officer, and firearms instructor.

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