How to Become a River Guide

How to Become a River Guide

5 Easy Steps to Land Your Dream Job

It’s easy to romanticize the life of a river guide. Their work is our vacation. They float wild and beautiful rivers for a living. They tell the best stories, the funniest jokes, and they even remain calm amid pure chaos. It’s only natural to envy a river guide. Here are five ways you, too, can make it happen.

1. Fall in Love: Find a river near you and dive in. Float it with friends if you can. Swim its deepest holes. Fish its riffles. Read everything written about its history. Talk to the locals, listen to the stories, and bring a field guide along to acquaint yourself with the plants and animals that call that river home. Nothing else will set you on a better course.

2. Take a Guided Trip: Look up the guided outfitters on the river you love, and book a trip. This is the best informational interview you will ever have. Introduce yourself to everyone you meet, ask your guide questions about the rapids, about the lifestyle, and get a feel if its truly for you. If you’re still interested at the end of the day, ask the guide how you can work there next summer, and take home an application.

River guide training

3. Get Certified: Make your application stand out from the crowd by completing a certified training course. Wilderness First Responder, CPR, and Swift Water Rescue courses will set you on the path to becoming a guide. Equally important will be gaining experience leading groups. If you’ve never done so, find a local non-profit and volunteer to lead tours. You’ll appreciate the practice speaking in front of groups.

4. Get in Shape: The rowing machine at the gym is your new best friend. Use it if you don’t have access to a boat. Nothing makes for a better guide than one who has a boundless zest for life. The key ingredient is energy and stamina. For your jokes to be funny, and your stories on point, you’ll need to be alert when everyone else is beat. Cardio. Core. Shoulders. And arms. Focus on those and you’ll be golden.

O.A.R.S. river guides

5. Wear a Smile: The days don’t often go according to plan. Sometimes they’re long, hard, demanding days — both mentally and physically — and other times, they’re totally chill. Whatever type of day you have, you need to meet it with a smile. Practice this attitude. The future guests upon your boat will appreciate nothing more than a friendly, good-natured guide who has a strong desire to provide their guests with the best time of their lives.

If you follow these steps you’ll find yourself on a guide-training course in the spring. Be flexible. Make yourself available, and find ways to help out. You won’t start guiding big water on day one, but with a positive, proactive, helpful attitude the company will trust you soon enough. Then you’ll enter the legendary days of fun guiding rivers for a living. Good luck!