Dinosaur Whitewater Guide School

Location Utah Adventure Level Challenging Minimum age 18 River Rating Class III From $1399
Book Now Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

Train to be a professional river guide or elevate your whitewater paddling skills as you learn the essentials of whitewater rafting on Utah’s Green River with one of the most respected river outfitters in the world.

On this week-long river guide training course near Colorado in northeastern Utah, you’ll spend each day learning and practicing essential rafting skills on scenic Class II-III sections of the Green River, including Split Mountain Canyon in Dinosaur National Monument. 

Our experienced river guides—all with whitewater rescue training and extensive guiding experience—will teach you the ropes. OARS Dinosaur Whitewater Guide School is designed to teach participants how to proficiently guide a paddle raft downstream. You’ll also leave the program with a Swiftwater Rescue Training (SRT) certification. No prior outdoor or whitewater rafting experience is required.

This Utah rafting guide school near Colorado is ideal for:

  • Anyone interested in working as a professional whitewater rafting guide
  • Individuals interested in guiding a paddle raft on their own private river trips
  • Anyone who appreciates experiential learning or an active vacation experience and is interested in whitewater and river safety

Why sign up for Dinosaur Whitewater Guide School with OARS?

  • OARS has been a leader in the whitewater industry since 1969
  • We use top-notch, well-maintained equipment and set the gold standard in safety
  • We keep our courses small (1 guide for every 4 participants) to provide plenty of personal attention to participants
  • Our experienced, well-rounded guide instructors are personable, approachable and the best in the business
  • We are committed to treading lightly on the environment
  • Outside magazine, National Geographic Traveler, MSNBC, Good Morning America, Condé Nast Traveler, and Men’s Journal have all recognized OARS as offering some of the “Best Trips” on the planet

Start Your Career as a Professional River Guide

Dinosaur Whitewater Rafting Guide School is a critical first step to river guiding and may provide an opportunity for you to get your foot in the door with a well-established organization like OARS. In fact, if you do well in our course, we just might consider asking you to stay on as an OARS guide. (We do give preferential consideration to our guide school graduates.) To be considered, please read the information we provide for aspiring guides and complete an online application before you attend Guide School.

Trip Highlights
  • Essential whitewater rafting guide training in Class III whitewater
  • Guide a paddle raft on the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument
  • Learn Swiftwater Rescue Techniques & Leave No Trace
  • Elevate your prospects for getting work as a professional river guide
  • Walk away with other new skills like boat-rigging, knot-tying, camp skills & equipment care

What to Expect

Itinerary & Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Dinosaur Whitewater Guide School training course is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:

The Day Before Your Course Begins

We’ll meet the evening before the course begins for a brief Guide School orientation in Vernal, Utah. This is an opportunity to meet your fellow participants and trip leader, and ask any last-minute questions.

Course Content

You’ll leave OARS Dinosaur Guide School with a better understanding of the following: 

  • Reading whitewater
  • Maneuvering paddle rafts
  • Various stroke techniques
  • Knot tying
  • Raft rigging
  • River signals
  • How to communicate with your crew
  • The basic logistics of a rafting trip
  • Camp – setting up, minimum impact strategies
  • Tying up and anchoring boats, so you know they’ll be there in the morning
  • Wildlife – what to do about those pesky critters
  • Swiftwater rescue techniques
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Emergency river procedures
  • 7 Principles of Leave No Trace

Day to Day

This is an educational course where all participants will be actively engaging and learning in an official OARS guide training course. We will start each morning at 8 AM, organize and have a short class before heading out to the river for the day. Once on the water, we’ll practice various techniques and skills, breaking for lunch mid-day. In the afternoons, we’ll have another lesson or two before returning to Vernal for the evening.

Early in the week, we’ll review essential knowledge about equipment, river hydraulics, and safety considerations. We’ll learn about all the gear necessary for a successful rafting expedition and how to properly care for it. Some of the discussions at the river will include how to rig a raft, giving safety and paddle talks, and water anatomy. Once we reach the warehouse after a day out on the water, we will unload all gear, clean up, and debrief with a review of the day’s lessons.

Following each full day of instruction, you’ll have evenings off. This can be an opportunity to mingle with other Guide School participants or rest and recharge for the next day.

As we continue into the second half of our guide school, you will use everything you’ve learned from days one and two. Students will now be in charge of rigging the boats for the day’s events. We may even change venues and introduce the Flaming Gorge section of the Green River and Steinaker Lake for some rowing practice.

During the course, we will also cover ACA’s program for Swiftwater Rescue Training (SRT), and by the end of the week, you will receive your SRT certification.

Meeting Time & Place


Vernal, Utah

Meeting time

5 PM, the evening before your trip


Approximately 6 PM

Trip Map

Jumping off a rock in Split Mountain Canyon.

Dates & Prices

20% discount off regular price for active military personnel, emergency first responders, and students with a valid university ID!

Tuition assistance may be available for qualified applicants; please visit our Guide School FAQs or call 800-346-6277 for more information.

2024 DeparturesPrice
May 13$1,399
Book Now



*Prices subject to National Park Service review

Ways to Save

To book with one of our special offers, call 1-800-346-6277 or contact us today.

The Need-to-Know Info

Trip Details

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled professional guide instructors
  • 6 nights camping at the OARS warehouse (limited amenities)
  • Lunch each day
  • Expedition equipment, including high-quality rafts, 2-person shared tent, personal flotation device (PFD), helmet, waterproof dry bag, and wetsuit & splash top
  • Swiftwater Rescue Training (SRT) certification
  • Transfers from the OARS Warehouse in Vernal to the river and back

Not Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Transportation to and from Vernal
  • Pre- and post-trip accommodations, or accommodations during the week of the trip
  • Breakfast or dinner during guide school
  • Dinosaur National Monument Entrance Fee
  • Sleeping bag & a deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad (these items may be rented from OARS)
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Alcoholic beverages

The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants, and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. 

Guide school focuses on the paddle raft as the base skill for guides. Learning to row an oar boat is an option, but is a supplement to paddle raft instruction. Learn more about the OARS Fleet.

Several people prepare a picnic lunch in a scenic river canyon.

Guide school participants are welcome to camp on the OARS base for the duration of the course but there are limited amenities. If you are looking for more comfortable sleeping arrangements, there are a number of hotels and campgrounds in Vernal.

All breakfasts and dinners are on your own. For lunch, we’ll take a break from instruction and work together to set out a delicous picnic lunch. A typicaly spread may include all the fixings for chicken Caesar salad wraps or a tasty taco salad for roll-your-own burritos. Lunch is always accompanied by fruit, cookies, cold water, and lemonade.

Please let us know if you have any dietary needs that we’ll need to consider in planning your trip. More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.

Average Air & Water Temperatures

Air (Day) °FAir (Night) °FWater °F

Water Levels & Temperature

The Green River’s headwaters lie in the Wind River Range of Wyoming, and its stream is repeatedly blocked and diverted, most significantly by the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, not far upstream from Dinosaur National Monument. Thus, its flow is determined by reservoir releases. The Green will spike in the spring and early summer as the controlling agency at Flaming Gorge Dam releases water to make room for inflow typically between mid-May and mid-June, but can vary widely from early May and into July. 

High-water trips equate to a more intense whitewater experience and a high level of physical fitness is recommended. Water temperatures are coldest during the high water period and rain gear and warm synthetic clothing will be required.


Much of our time is spent on the Split Mountain section of the Green River, which offers several thrilling Class III rapids, interspersed with lots of smaller waves and riffles. It’s an ideal stretch for learning the ins and outs of guiding.

Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.

  • Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 260 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria.

  • Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us.
  • Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation email for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving within 60 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.

Reservations and Payments

A $400/person deposit is required at the time of booking with final payment due 60 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 days before the departure date will be canceled.

Payments can be made by check, money order, eCheck, wire transfer, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency. Your payment is fully refundable for 7 days, less a 3% processing fee, after making a reservation when you reserve a trip 7 days or more prior to the final payment due date.

Cancellations and Refunds

Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below.

We regret that we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

Date of CancellationCancellation Fee
180 or more days before your trip$50/person
179 – 90 days before your trip$100/person
89 – 60 days before your trip$200/person. The remainder of your payment can be transferred to another trip within the same year (or to a credit account for the following year). No refund.
59 days or less before your tripFull fare

Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.

Canceled Trips

OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 45 days prior to departure. Do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you have verified with OARS that your trip is confirmed. 

If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less the initial deposit amount and any non-refundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers; however, we cannot guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.


If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same season, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $25/person fee up until 90 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 89 days or less before departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.

National Park Service Authorized Concessioner

O.A.R.S. Canyonlands, Inc. is an authorized concessioner of Dinosaur National Monument.

Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement

We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the Green River between Rainbow Park and Split Mountain Campground, we acknowledge the territories of the Ute.

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