Colorado Raft guide Jobs & Training

Employment with Whitewater Adventure Outfitters


Cost $450 - Our course typically begins the Monday prior to Memorial Day weekend.

*Training starts Monday - May 24th 2021*

At WAO we offer this course to those who are interested in becoming guides in Colorado. The difference between our course and so many others is that it is our intention to hire guides from this course for our own staff. We do not run a large course in order to fill boats with trainees and then hire only a select few. Our class is small and designed to fill our staffing needs. While exploring your opportunities to become a guide on the Arkansas River in Colorado, consider that there are several very large companies that have very large training classes. This is due to a high turnover rate. Compared to others, our turnover rate is very low. There is a reason for this. WAO has grown almost every year since our humble beginnings in 1994 and now enjoy being one of the most trusted and respected companies on the river. While no program that I know of offers a guarantee of employment, those who successfully complete the course will very likely be given the opportunity to join our team.

Training to be a raft guide on the Arkansas River is physically and mentally challenging and our course requires the ability to be a team player, a positive attitude and a fair amount of courage. There is much more to becoming a competent guide than learning how to get the raft from point A to point B. Customer relations and the ability to get the most out of your crew on a daily basis are key factors and a point of emphasis during our training program. We operate in a State Park, known as the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, and are subject to rules and regulations far too numerous to list here. Therefore our philosophy is to produce well rounded or "complete" guides, not just good boatmen. At WAO we also believe strongly that all guides should be proficient at both rowing and paddling and our course provides plenty of time incorporating both methods. Many companies focus only on paddle boats.

That being said, the guides at WAO are among the best in the country and several have many years of commercial experience on the Arkansas and other rivers across the globe. Many of the guides here can work anywhere they choose, at top dollar. They choose to work here. Simply put, the guides that will be your instructors are as good as can be found, not only on the Arkansas, but anywhere.

All potential trainees must be at least 18 years old and need to obtain a minimum of basic first aid & CPR certifications. Online courses will NOT be accepted by WAO or State Parks, so be sure to take a course that you physically attend. It is best if this is accomplished before training begins. During our course you will be provided with wetsuits, paddle jackets, helmets and lifejackets (PFD). Conditions in the late spring in Colorado can vary greatly from day to day. The weather is unpredictable and water levels can change dramatically overnight. Therefore, we recommend you have the following when you arrive to begin your training:

  • Fleece vest or jacket
  • Wool socks (at least 2 pair)
  • Wool or fleece hat
  • Sunglasses with a retainer (Chums, Croakies)
  • Plenty of sunscreen
  • Teva/Chaco type sandals
  • Water bottle

Once you successfully complete training there are items that ALL professional guides MUST own:

  • Lifejacket (PFD)
  • Throw rope
  • Helmet
  • Watch - water proof is good.
  • River rescue knife
  • Several cam straps of various lengths
  • Flip line
  • Whistle
  • Guide Paddle

Cold weather gear, such as splash jackets, pants, hydro-skin, polypro and such, is also nice to have. A medium sized dry bag is also recommended to contain and stow cold weather gear. If you are uncertain what all this stuff is or aren't exactly sure what to buy, then don't. All these items (and more!) can be obtained at our cost from our suppliers for participants at some point during the course of training. We offer the "at cost" deal to rookies each year. You will never get a better deal on rafting gear than this one. Keep in mind a couple of other things. Rookies should be prepared to support yourself financially during training and for most of your first year. Rookies, here at WAO or at any company, will not be paid during training.

Once you are certified to run trips for pay (with paying customers) you can expect to work often and receive tips from customers as well. But the average rookie makes around $4000 (plus tips) his or her first season and it may be mid to late June before you are being regularly scheduled for trips. Rookies are paid by the trip at a rate of $40 per Half Day - $80 per Full Day. Those who stay until their pre-determined end of season date will be refunded $ 100 of the course fee. Those that return to WAO for a second year will be refunded yet another $100 of the fee at the end of that season.

Many of our full time senior staff started with little or no experience in our course and are now part of the dedicated, professional guide staff here at WAO. When you choose the WAO training course, you can be sure that you have chosen a reputable, well respected company at which to work. You will find, as our many loyal customers have, that there is no better option than WAO. Be ready for the adventure of your life, and prepare yourself to have the toughest job you'll ever love. If you are interested in our program please fill out the application below and answer the brief questionnaire. Please give complete answers and provide us with as much info about yourself as you can. Space is limited and our course fills up fairly quickly. Once we receive your application for our course you will be contacted to arrange a phone interview. We require a non-refundable deposit of $250 to be accepted in our program.

If you wish to contact us with any additional questions or concerns call - 719.275.5344 Or contact our operations manager via email at


WAO Rafting Guide Employment Form

We are looking for experienced guides for the 2021 season.  Please contact us directly via email at or via phone at [telnumlink]1 800 530 8212[/telnumlink]. In Colorado we are required to have on file a record of your medical certifications. The minimum is Basic First Aid & CPR and both must be current through at least Labor Day for you to be considered for employment at WAO. Colorado River Outfitter Regulations also require documentation of your initial guide training and all experience as a professional guide subsequent to your training. You also must be legally eligible to work in the U.S.

Drivers must be at least 25 years old and have a clean driving record. A CDL-class B license is required with air brake and passenger endorsements. All drivers are subject to, by federal mandate, a pre-employment drug screening and random testing. Ability to proficiently back up a trailer is a plus. Call [telnumlink]1 800 530 8212[/telnumlink] to apply or email
Bright, friendly, customer service oriented individuals should call [telnumlink]1 800 530 8212[/telnumlink] or email to apply for office staff positions. Good computer skills and phone skills required. Team players only.

My time as a trainee in 2008 at WAO was really the time of my life. During training we had all kinds of adventures, from learning to read water and swim in the river, to the great overnight adventures with the trainers. Training was not all fun, there were times it was difficult and very demanding, but in the end I have never had so much fun in a summer thanks to Tony, Kathy and the guides at WAO.

Trent Braddy, 2008 WAO training class, "WAO Guide Training"

Being a college student, training and working at WAO was a perfect experience. There is no better way to spend your summer than getting lots of sun, meeting great people (both your co-workers and customers), and spending your time on the river. WAO, in particular, is a great company to work for because of the experience and expertise of the senior guides.

Douglas "Dougie" Bolton, 2001 WAO training class, “WAO Guide Training”

I’m confident that the raft guide training I received at WAO was not only the best value, but also the best quality you can find on the Arkansas River.

Nick Mantei, 2015 Guide Training Class, “WAO Guide Training”


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