An In Depth Look at How to Become a River Guide

Colorado River & Trail Expeditions river guide application is available by clicking here

Why become a Professional Rafting Guide?

  • It is the Best Job in the World

If you enjoy people,  thrive on adventure , and are not afraid of hard work, River Guiding is a perfect fit.

  • You have a real impact on fellow crew and clients

River Guides, particularly on multi-day trips, form bonds with their clients.  Many of our current river guides have developed friendships all over the world with the clients they met on river trips.

  • You get to live life to the fullest

River Guides rise with the sun along beautiful rivers in deep canyons.  They hike, run rapids, explore, and impart knowledge.   Then fall asleep under a dark night ski.

  • You are part of a team, but also have autonomy

The success of a river trip depends on the River Guides.  As a team and as individuals there are tasks and measures that are taken each day to make the trip fun with safety in mind.

  • River Guides have a huge impact on preserving and protecting the environment

Customers on river trips generally listen when their River Guide speaks.  Combined with the aura of the place many guests after their trip want to help protect wild places for the future.

  • Guides are respected and revered

At Colorado River & Trail Expeditions we treat our  River Guides like family.  We appreciate what they do and who they are.   

  • Guiding Keeps you in Great Shape both Physically and Mentally

No one realizes the amount of physical work that a river guide does each day until they become a guide.  This is also true of the mental aspect of the profession.

  • You Work and Play in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

At Colorado River & Trail Expeditions our River Guides work in Grand Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Glacier Bay National Park, Kluane National Park, Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park, Westwater Canyon, and  Desolation Canyon.



Describe what a Professional Rafting Guide does?

  • Guides clients on one day and multi-day whitewater rafting expeditions-

It is a river guide’s responsibility to ensure that their guests feel safe and comfortable on a river trip.  This includes having the proper training and skills to navigate the river in a variety of boats depending on the section of river.  At Colorado River & Trail Expeditions our guides operate row rafts, paddle rafts, snout rigs, dories, inflatable kayaks, and motorized S-Rigs.  Guides are also responsible for keeping guests well fed, setting up and taking down camp, leading off-river hikes, and interpretation.

  • Work extremely hard

River guides work incredibly hard.  They rise with the sun and don’t usually stop until they go to sleep at night.  Even off the river, guides are busy cleaning up trips and packing for the next one.  The work is rewarding and requires strength, fitness, and the ability to work well with and respect your co-workers.

  • Instills a love of place

Preserving and Protecting the rivers, canyons, and wilderness our river expeditions venture through is at the heart of guiding.  Through a love of place, hard work, kindness, and interpretation, guides are able to pass these wilderness ethics onto our guests.  As a guide one of the best compliments is being told from a client how they “can tell how much you love a place just by the way you present yourself.”

  • River Guides are part of a skilled team based on seniority

River guiding requires training in Wilderness First Aid, Swiftwater Rescue, and Food Handling.  It also requires massive amounts of on the job training learning to read the river, run the rapids, and how to do everything related to a river expedition efficiently and safely.  Being part of a successful guide team requires being a team player, leading at times, and following at times.  



How can someone get started as a river guide?

At CRATE we often train guides that have little or no rafting experience.  We realize that our guides are the most important part of being a successful rafting company for over 50 years.  Because we operate primarily multi-day trips on the premier river sections of North America, and we treat our guides like family, we have very little turnover of guides from year to year.  Lucky for us, many of our current guides have worked for CRATE for over a decade!  That said, we are always looking for exceptional guides willing to work hard.  We are only looking for guides who plan to work for multiple summers.  The amount of time needed to train someone to our standards takes years.

We like to interview prospective guides at our office in Salt Lake City, Utah.  After the interview, if we decide the prospective guide might be a good fit, we will send them on a multi-day training trip.  The multi-day river trip is for the prospective guide to make sure they know what the job entails, and see if the veteran guides on the trip think they are a good fit for the company.   If they are a good fit, they will be required to accumulate on water experience and complete training before becoming a certified guide.  The training courses required of river guides include Wilderness First Responder which is a 72-80 hour first aid course similar to an EMT, but geared towards the wilderness setting.  They are also required to have a Food Handler permit.  At CRATE, we require guides to have additional training related to wilderness, harassment, interpretation, and river rescue.


 Can I river guide during the summers while going to school?

Yes, river guiding is a great job for a college student.   The rafting season usually begins in April and runs through September, but the peak months of May, June, July, and August generally coincide nicely with summer breaks.


Are there official or unofficial steps, stages, ranks, benchmarks etc. to commercial guiding on the rivers you run? 

Our guides generally start their rafting career at our Green River, Utah location.  This is our base for running 1-day trips on the Green and Colorado Rivers, as well as Westwater Canyon, Cataract Canyon, and Desolation Canyon.  Guides generally row baggage boats when they start.  As they obtain more experience and better judgement they row passengers.  Usually they will progress next to captaining paddle rafts and finally to running our large motorized rafts.  We don’t have official benchmarks.  We pay employees based on seniority with the company.  Trip leaders and guides are chosen based on qualifications, experience, skill, ability, and seniority.



What makes Colorado River & Trail Expeditions a great company to guide for?

  1. We are a family operated rafting company under the same ownership for 50 years.
  2. Ownership is hands on and works in the day to day operation.
  3. Our employees are treated like family
  4. We operate on the best sections of river-Colorado River in Grand Canyon, Cataract Canyon, and Westwater Canyon.  Green River in Desolation Canyon.  Tatshenshini-Alsek River in Alaska/Canada.
  5. Our employees are incredible people that have an abundance of river experience and knowledge



What are a handful of BIG IDEAS that are necessary to embrace as a river rafting guide?

  • Love what you do.
  • Work hard.
  • Everyone on the crew is important.
  • Passengers Make the Trip Possible.
  • Have pride in the way you operate your boat
  • Be Efficient
  • Have a Back-up Plan
  • Trust 

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