“It’s about the people at NRS now.” Bill Parks, Founder of Northwest River Supplies Passes Away (1934-2023)

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Talk about a helluva great run, life and role in paddlesports. On March 5, 2023, Bill Parks, the founder and president of Northwest River Supplies (NRS), passed away peacefully of natural causes at St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise, Idaho, at the age of 88.

Statement from NRS:

“It is with heavy hearts filled with fond memories, laughter, love and respect that we inform you all of the passing of Bill Parks. Bill was known as a businessman, river runner, and educator, but he was foremost a humanitarian. He leaves behind a 50-year legacy of serving customers and community, people and the planet, steadfast in his belief that business can be a force for good in the world.

“When first starting NRS, his business philosophy was considered unorthodox by many of his peers. While the prevailing theory of the time held that a business’s only responsibility was to produce profit for its shareholders, Bill believed that a company could aspire to have a positive impact on the lives of its customers and employees, and to be a force for good in the world. He wanted to start his own company, in part, to simply prove his ideas could work.

Parks running his beloved Payette…

“In the spring of 1969, Bill found his way aboard a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, an experience that would change his life—and the outdoor industry—forever. Bill became hooked on river running, bought a Montgomery Ward raft for $69, and talked his way onto any river trip he could find. He saw potential for the sport to grow, and potential for a company to supply that sport with quality gear and a commitment to service. In 1972, Bill took $2,000 of his personal savings, stocked an inventory of gear in his garage and started Northwest River Supplies, Inc.

“After founding NRS, Bill moved to Moscow, Idaho to join the faculty at the University of Idaho in the College of Business and Economics. He continued to build NRS while teaching full time, often hiring his students to assist customers, help out in the warehouse and fulfill orders.

“NRS grew to become a multi-million-dollar international company, and in 2013 Bill began taking steps to plan for a future without him. While he had received numerous offers from investors over the years, Bill decided to invest in what he believed in: the people. Bill helped finance a deal to transfer all NRS stock to the company’s workers, and in early 2014 NRS became 100% employee owned.

Parks at an early company gathering…

“Even in his final days, he was discussing business with NRS managers. His wife and best friend, Donna Holmes Parks was by his side until the end.

“Bill took pleasure in celebrating the NRS 50th Anniversary last year and reflecting on the company’s progress, saying, ‘I’m proud to say that NRS is truly led by its people. Sometimes you guys tell me that I’m important to the company, and I pretend to believe it. But it’s about the people at NRS now.’”

Learn more about Bill Parks: https://www.nrs.com/about/bill-parks/

Parks, loading her up…

About NRS

100% employee-owned, NRS is the world’s leading supplier of equipment and apparel for water recreation, safety and rescue. Founded in 1972 with a vision to create a better kind of company, NRS is dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of its customers, employees and community. For more information on NRS, visit www.nrs.com, email the company at service@nrs.com or call 877.677.4327.

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