The reality is that there is no dependable way of reaching guests on the river in the event of a family emergency at home, regardless of the severity. You will need to be prepared for the fact that if something does happen at home, you will not know or be able to do anything about it until you return from your river trip.
GCW guides do carry communication devices including satellite phones but these are only used for outgoing messages in case of emergency on the river. The satellite phones are otherwise switched off and unavailable for incoming calls and messages.
Consider this, even if you were able to get incoming messages, there wouldn’t be anything you could do from the river. The National Park Service will not evacuate you off of a trip for an emergency at home.
The best thing you can do is to give your loved ones our office number (800-343-3121). In the event of an emergency at home, they can notify us of the situation so we are able to relay messages as soon as possible — keeping in mind that likely means when the trip ends. Also, make sure your family understands you will be unreachable during your time on the river. It can help to discuss possibilities with family and/or caregivers before you embark so that everyone feels comfortable should a situation arise.