The Life of a Colorado Whitewater Rafting Guide

Millions of people go whitewater rafting across the country every year. And while for most a river trip may be a once a year or even once in a lifetime event, for rafting guides the river is a way of life. Here is a glimpse into what a guide’s life looks like every summer.


The first step is training. The state of Colorado requires all guides to get certified. This requires at least 50 hours on the river as well as 50 miles of guiding. This process of training usually takes about 3 weeks during the month of May. Some companies, such as Breckenridge Whitewater Rafting, make their guides go through more training and require more hours on the river and in the classroom than the state.

What A Week Looks Like

As rookies get to know the longterm guides that could practically paddle down the river with their eyes closed, they start off taking guests down the more novice sections of whitewater.  Weekends are the busiest for all guides, as this is the most popular time for tourists as well as locals to run the river.  During early to the middle of the week, guide may only take out one trip a day.  Though it’s less money in their pocket there is free time during the day to indulge in their favorite past time.  Many of our raft guides love to kayak, rock climb, hike, and participate in the whole spectrum of outdoor adventure.

Rafting the Arkansas River

Living Quarters

The lifestyle of a guide may seem a bit out there to some, as many guides will live at the outpost they are working at for the season. No heat or air conditioning, no private bathroom, and a communal kitchen is the common setup at rafting outposts. Most guides live out of a tent, their car, or a converted van or bus. This is part of a minimalist and simple lifestyle and definitely doesn’t suit the majority.

The Less, The Better

No river guide is guiding to make millions and live a life of luxury.  However, a life of luxury is different in a rafting guide’s eyes as the heart. To wake up in a beautiful landscape and hop in the river every day is living the dream. Hot showers, a big couch, a flat screen TV, and a closet full of clothes is no longer a necessity.  What makes this lifestyle even better is that they get to make a living on the river and they get to share their passion with others.

It takes a special breed to endure the raft guide culture, and we are lucky enough to have some of the most interesting and down to earth people on our crew.  Come meet them this summer with a river trip with Breckenridge Whitewater Rafting!