Natalie Warren grew up in Miami, Florida where she attended the New World School of the Arts for saxophone performance. In 2005, she flew to Minneapolis and headed North to YMCA Camp Menogyn, a wilderness camp based in Minnesota. After a two week canoeing trip in the BWCA, Natalie fell in love with the wilderness and later decided to pursue an Environmental Studies degree at St. Olaf. In 2011, She and Ann Raiho were the first two women to paddle the 2,000 miles from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay, following Eric Sevareid's route from Canoeing With the Cree. See

Natalie believes that wilderness adventures help young females reach their full physical and emotional potential. After a year of presenting on her Hudson Bay Bound adventure, she wanted to provide something tangible for her audiences...Hello, Wild River Academy! Natalie loves to dress up as a dog, play music, and manage your hunger level on trail. She has too many finger puppets, if there is such a thing.

Natalie on WRA's Potomac Pilgrimage Trip

Natalie on WRA's Potomac Pilgrimage Trip

Nick Ryan was born in Stevens Point, WI. Nick lived in Poway,  California for 3 years and then spent the rest of his young life in Naperville, IL before attending Western Illinois University. At WIU, Nick obtained a bachelors degree in Law Enforcement with minors in sociology and SCUBA diving.

Some of Nick's many passions include: SCUBA diving of any kind, anywhere. He loves camping especially when tied to canoeing, hiking, or any other outdoor activity, and is an avid ultimate frisbee player who likes to run for fun.

Nick's favorite memory of the outdoors would have to be when he went on a two day, 60 mile canoe trip, with two friends, down the Missouri River in South Dakota bordering Nebraska.

Nick on WRA's Potomac Pilgrimage Trip

Anna Johnson is extremely knowledgeable about the outdoors, plays the banjo, and is the newest member of the Wild River Academy family. She grew up in Evanston, IL, but spent her summers at Camp Bil-O-Wood in northern Ontario, where she canoed extensively. It was on these trips that she developed a passion for the environment, a love of canoeing, and formed incredible relationships, all of which define who she is today.

Anna ditched her home in the flatlands of Chicago to attend Colorado College and earn a degree in Political Science and a minor in Environmental Issues. She moved to Washington, D.C. to gain experience in environmental policy. After working with an environmental non-profit, spending the summer on an educational organic farm, and interning with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, she is excited to be joining Wild River Academy. 

Anna on WRA's Potomac Pilgrimage Trip

Anna on WRA's Potomac Pilgrimage Trip

Wild River Academy 2014 Interns

Sonja Hakanson grew up in Baraboo, Wisconsin and spent most of her time hiking, swimming, skiing, bouldering, canoeing, and kayaking at Devil's Lake State Park.  She escaped the Midwest to attend Lewis and Clark College in Portland Oregon where she received her Bachelor's in Sociology and Anthropology.  As alluring as the Pacific Northwest is, Sonja's heart truly lies in the farm fields of the Midwest.  After graduating in 2011, Sonja spent time in Bayfield, WI and Duluth, MN before moving to Minneapolis.  Sonja is a server at Burch Restaurant, but her true passion is organic farming.  She also loves speaking Spanish, dancing, cross country skiing, biking, Husky dogs, and Lake Superior.  It is a little known fact that Sonja can do a headstand in a kayak.  She is very excited to work and learn with Wild River Academy this season.


Paul Ronan...Many words come to mind when thinking of this individual. Outdoorsy, nature loving, free spirit, kayaker, canoeist, hiker, biker, rock climber, master chess player, philosopher, friend, teacher, but these are just words that do not encapsulate who this man really is. At 8 years old and his Father sent him to a YMCA camp where he met people who had an unrivaled love for everything outdoors. Many believe that this was the summer where everything changed. Through out the fallowing years Paul met people, broke hearts, went on a few adventures, got into trouble, but always found himself walking back into the woods. After high school Paul moved to Ely MN to study Outdoor Leadership at Vermillion Community College. During these formative years Paul worked for various outdoor jobs, a ranch in Colorado, Wilderness Inquiry in Minneapolis, he even ran the Ely Recreation Center. Paul's last gig was spent working for Insight Adventures, China's largest outdoor education company. After this explosion of a paradigm shift, Paul flew back to his home town of Minneapolis and now works with WRA to help even more people get outside and start their own adventure. 

Paul's biggest fear is being tickled.
Paul's favorite rapper is the Notorious B.I.G.Paul currently can be found practicing climbing knots with his shoe laces.


Liz Just is a native Wisconsinite, growing up just outside of Madison, WI.  She left home in 2008 to attend school at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where she pursued a degree in Environmental Education and Sustainability Studies.  During college, an ongoing love for the outdoors merged with her studies during two off campus experiential education courses, fueling her current passions and interests.  The first, a domestic program in the Twin Cities, broadened her perspectives around different issues such as environmental justice, sustainable agriculture, and renewable energy.  The second experience took her halfway around the world to India where she spent six weeks hiking and camping in the Himalayas while studying culture, alpine ecosystems, mountain farming, and sustainability in a developing nation. These experiences led her to a summer and fall guiding wilderness trips in the Midwest with Wilderness Inquiry.

Liz was a member of the Wild RIver Academy Paddle Forward team, which completed a canoe expedition down the entire Mississippi River.

Liz on the mighty Mississippi.

Liz on the mighty Mississippi.