Our Middle Fork Crew
Middle Fork Wilderness Outfitters is a locally owned and run business, with a crew of experienced guides who are all passionate about sharing wild places with others. Each one of our MFWO guides is trained in CPR and First Aid and all are certified in Swift Water Rescue.
Safety is our number one concern on any river trip, but being a guide on the Middle Fork of the Salmon is about being multi skilled, and it shows on every trip. Our guides are experienced boatmen (and women) on the water, and at camp you will be blown away at the crew’s incredible culinary skills, fireside guitar, detailed knowledge of the area’s significant history, and their dedication to providing a comfortable and relaxing new camp each night on the banks of Idaho’s most treasured river.
Our goal at Middle Fork Wilderness Outfitters is to give every guest an experience that they will never forget. A multi day river trip is the perfect way to disconnect from the stress, hustle, and technological “benefits” of modern society through a true wilderness experience. Our guides are committed to offering each customer the experience they are seeking.
Willis McAleese, Owner & Guide
Our Outfitter, Willis, grew up on the banks of the Salmon River in and around Challis, Idaho. Long before he learned how to drive, he was learning how to navigate boats on the Salmon. Immediately after high school, Willis began guiding Steelhead fisherman in the Challis Area, and then spent a couple of summers guiding Alaskan rivers, before finally settling in to the Middle Fork. With well over 200 MF trips under his belt, Willis is an expert on the river and its corridor. He is also an expert on fishing the Middle Fork and its tributaries, and after nearly two decades of guiding mostly fly fishing trips, Willis is well in tune with where the fish are, what they are eating, and how best to fish for them.
Every Middle Fork trip is about fun and letting go, but Willis takes great pride and responsibility in also making the trips he leads the safest and most comfortable trips on the water. He is well known for his ability to make others feel comfortable in any situation, as well as for his experience and leadership in emergencies.
Mike Oldham, Lead Guide
Mike is an all around outdoorsy guy. He grew up in the North End of Boise Idaho, with a playground spanning from the banks of the Boise River to the rolling hills of the Front. When not spending time on the river he enjoys mountain biking, climbing, snow sports, and most other activities spent outdoors. His off season occupation may vary, but you can be certain that he’s workin’ hard at something he enjoys. He spent this last winter building whitewater rafts with the crew down at Moravia.
At an early age, Mike found his passion for all things river. From his wild youth in those seemingly infinite days of summer, the river carved its way into his heart. From the Boise to the Payette, the Snake to the Lochsa, down to the desert rivers of Utah, and back home to the Salmon – of all the rivers, it is the mighty Middle Fork of the Salmon that calls strongest to Mike. He has a passion for the MF that is apparent in all he does. It’s his home, a way of life, and a place he holds in the highest regards. Ask him about what makes this wonderful area so special to him and he will be able to give you a wealth of information and an insightful perspective on its rich history. What Mike really loves more then anything, is having the opportunity to share this beautifully rugged wilderness with our guests. You will feel his authenticity the first time you shake his hand, and you will immediately feel his love for the Middle Fork.
Brandon Esbensen, Guide
Brandon is one of those guys who is a jack of all trades. From the Sweep Boat to the paddle boat, baking in the kitchen or repairing gear, he is always right at home. With a quiet demeanor and a ready smile, Brandon will always meet any situation with confidence and skill.
A few words from Brandon…
“I’m not sure what initially inspired my love for the outdoors, but growing up camping with my grandparents and parents in many of the incredible places around Idaho may have been the spark that lit the flame. As I found my independence, I began to enjoy the thrill and isolation of the mountains, from winter camping to rock climbing and mountain biking, I loved the adventure that surely came with these activities. It wasn’t long before I discovered whitewater rafting. It was excitement, adventure, and natural beauty all in one. I was immediately drawn to the Middle Fork, lured by the stories and history of boating on the river. Here I found my home, and I also found a passion for sharing these magical places with others.”
Originally from Boise Idaho, Brandon now lives in Salmon full time and works at Lost Trail Ski Area in the winter as lift maintenance and as a Snow Cat driver. For several years, Brandon was also a Head Baker at some of Boise’s finest bakeries, so naturally, he is a whiz with our Dutch Ovens on the river.
Lara Sagatov, Guide
Lara is an East Coast transplant with a restless spirit and a passion for the open spaces and the vast wilderness areas of the West. She is a six-year river guide having worked in Idaho, North Carolina and Montana. Lara has guided and taught many different outdoor pursuits including backpacking, rock and ice climbing, and dog mushing, but after taking a whitewater kayaking class in college she quickly learned that the water was where she belonged. After two years on the Nolichucky River in North Carolina, she decided to drop everything and pursue guiding full time in Idaho and has never looked back. With a degree in Sculpture and Design from Hampshire College in Amherst Massachusetts and a lifelong goal to learn complete self-sufficiency, Lara spends most of her off-river time making furniture, clothing, leather goods and folk music. She also dabbles in fiber arts, hide tanning and the fermentation arts, among many other primitive skills. You may also find Lara fly fishing, traveling, searching for wild edible plants and mushrooms or skiing in the snowy mountains of the Northwest. She is so excited to share the magic of the Middle Fork with you all!
Alison “Millie” Styer, Guide
Alison Styer has worked as a guide on the Salmon River since graduating high school in 2000. As the child of a backcountry pilot, Alison spent a significant part of her childhood exploring Idaho’s wilderness. She is an avid hiker, boater, hunter, traveler, and all-around adventurer. She loves spending time in nature, but has a particular fondness for the Frank Church Wilderness. When she’s not guiding boats down the river, Alison loves reading, playing games, and hiking with her two dogs.
Alison is an accomplished massage therapist and has been practicing as a licensed massage therapist in Boise since 2008. She currently lives in Boise with her husband, Troy, her two dogs, Moon and Squishy, and her three cats, Sage, Jinx, and Chili, and is the favorite aunt to five nieces and a nephew.
Tom (G-Handy) Handy, Guide
Tom Handy is a quiet guy whose presence seems to bring a lightness to any situation. The Handy family has been floating the Middle Fork since 1959, and much of Tom’s youth was spent on the river or its adjoining drainages. Tom’s dad, Eldon, was a legend on the Middle Fork, and Tom continues to humbly carry that legacy today, while doing what he loves which is taking people down the river.
The rest of the crew lovingly calls Tom “G-Handy” which stands for Grandpa Handy, but only out of complete respect for his knowledge of the river and its history, his oarsmanship, his wizardry in the kitchen, and so much more. We are honored to have Tom on our crew at MFWO as a full time guide and look forward to many more seasons with him.