The Dog That Launched a Thousand Rafts


Ellie, the inspiration behind it all

First came the dog. Then came the company. The dog ironically didn’t even like water, but its loveable attitude still inspired its owners to follow their dreams and start their very own rafting company in Jackson, Wyoming. Ellie, whom Black Dog Raft Company is named after, prefers to spend her time hiking, chasing birds, lounging, napping, and dreaming of the activities fore mentioned. Ellie’s pretty much the sweetest and most loving dog imaginable and set an example for her owners to do what they love for a living. In time Ellie literally became the face and logo of the company and the rest is as they say rafting history, but first here’s how three drops of water turned into a current and became Black Dog.

When you love water you follow its course and let it take you for the ride. The ride for co-owner Mandie Lanier began far from Jackson on the east coast in Georgia. Mandie grew up on St. Simon’s Island where she learned to swim before she could even walk. Drawn to the ocean and the water she started kayaking regularly in the Atlantic in high school. She left the coast to go to school at the University of Georgia, but like a tributary she followed the currents pull 300 miles back to St. Simon’s Island and got back in the water when she returned home. Once back she quickly became an ocean kayak guide for a local outfitter named Southeast Adventure. Her experience at Southeast Adventure was a positive one and would eventually be the inspiration of how to run a business of her own in the outdoor industry. The only wrinkle was she knew she was ready for some western adventure, so she packed up her life and her rescue dog Ellie and moved to Jackson. After three years in the valley she met co-owner Jeff Rossberg and they followed the flow of the currents once again to Maui where they both decided that they wanted to be outside for “work” rather than a cubicle and the idea for Black Dog was hatched, sketched out in the sand and on cocktail napkins.

Co-owner Jeff Rossberg’s story begins closer to where Black Dog’s story begins as he grew up around the west enjoying the outdoors. He got his first taste of rafting on the Green River and took his first trip down the famed Snake at just age ten. Jeff loved the water but concentrated mostly on climbing and skiing while in high school. His passion for rafting got him into guiding at age twenty-five, so he left Salt Lake City and followed the water’s flow back up to Jackson. In addition to guiding he’s also an avid whitewater kayaker. Jeff spent twelve years in the industry guiding for a local Jackson company before he knew he wanted to own his own rafting company.

The water’s currents brought Jeff, Mandie, and Ellie’s lives together and back again to Jackson. Jeff and Mandie got engaged this past spring and their love of water has always been a bond. They have a simple company vision for Black Dog Raft Company and that is to keep it a personable and intimate experience for their guests. They treat their employees like an extended family and those talented guides help make Black Dog Raft Company what it is today. The company’s future goals are to have permits for whitewater and offer whitewater trips. All of the staff at Black Dog Raft Company are avid rafters and kayakers so work never feels like work but rather where they simply prefer to be for the day. The most rewarding part of their job is introducing people to the river and getting them inspired by it. The off-season offers time for other passions, but Mandie and Jeff quickly both agree that a perfect day is a day on the river! Join Mandie and Jeff for your own perfect day on the river when you book a trip with Black Dog Raft Company and see where the water’s current will take you.


Ellie, the face of the franchise