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River Rafting Guide School

The Best River Rafting Guides School on the American River!

American Whitewater’s whitewater rafting guide school is one of the best in California if not the West Coast due to the experience and knowledge of our instructors, the quality of their teaching skills, and their depth of experience on rivers all over the world. This will directly translate to you becoming a confident guide with a strong grasp of the basics and will allow you to progress faster with a solid foundation to build on. Adding to this is the fact that the South Fork of the American is an ideal classroom and river for a first year guide to be on.

The content of most guide schools is much the same regardless of the commercial outfitter you select. However, schools and outdoor recreation programs do have a lower level of content and quality than almost any outfitter – it’s best to learn from a professional commercial raft guide. Between commercial outfitter schools the main difference is in the quality and length of the school.

It’s not possible to become a “qualified raft guide” in 6 days or even 2 weeks. We believe it takes a minimum of 6 long days spent on and off the water for students to learn and get comfortable with the very basics. After that it’s all about river time on the guide stick to get the confidence you need. Every day on the water is a new learning experience. After 6 days of instruction, spend an additional 6 days on the river as a group, each taking turns on the guide stick and getting constructive feedback from other guides.

Our 2018 Guide School is being taught by Andre “Bill” Silva, Rene Gascoign, Nikki Doyle and the River Rescue Component is being taught by Matt Reid. Combined they have over 50 years of commercial guiding experience all over the US and Internationally. Andre is a International Rafting Federation Instructor and Assessor with 15+ years of global guiding experience. Rene is a highly qualified guide from New Zealand and taught our 2017 Guides School. Nikki is one of our senior guides with 20+ years of rafting experience. Nikki is an Australian Native but has lived in California for 20+ years and her depth of knowledge is unmatched! Matt is a highly skilled guide with over a decade of guiding experience all over the world. Matt is river rescue wonk and is working towards his Rescue 3 Instructors certification. Our instructors hold the highest commercial guide accreditations in the industry and work as guides year round in the US and overseas. You will not get a team of more experienced and highly qualified guides to learn from. Most company’s guide schools are run by instructors with only a few years experience. This is where quality counts.

We accept only 12 applicants for our guide’s school so we can give personalized attention to each trainee. We have an average of 1 instructor for every 6 students with a maximum of 12 students. On most land based instruction the ratio is higher but on the water it’s all about time on the guide stick and river miles. Be sure you are ready for long days!

Many guide schools are run strictly to make money and your chances of being hired are slim. If an outfitter offers 3 or 4 guide schools then it is obvious your chances of being hired are very slim, we only run one guides school. There are a few colleges and organizations that offer guide schools but cannot offer employment to you as a guide because they are not commercial outfitters. We only hire first year guides out of our guides school and this year we intend to hire only 2 or 3 first year guides.

You will find it difficult to get work with an outfitter if you did not go through their guide school. Realistically, we received 30 to 40 phone calls a year from guides asking for work who have been trained by universities, for-profit-only guide schools, and outfitters who do not hire from their schools.

So select your guide school carefully! Ask hard questions. Don’t be fooled by low prices or slick copy. If you have any questions please call or email me.

Contact Arnie directly at 530-642-0804 or by email.

Our hiring practice

Our 14-day intensive guide training course will give you the skills to be a Trainee Guide. If you are hired as a Trainee Guide, it will mean that at the end of your guide school you will be accompanying a qualified guide who will assess your skills and further your training as you guide a commercial raft trip. With a minimum of 20 training trips (in most cases), depending upon your abilities, you should be ready to guide your first solo commercial raft trip in early July at the very latest.

Along with your guiding abilities, the most important aspect of being a river guide is being a ‘people person’. You have to enjoy being with people and be sensitive to their needs as rafters. We can teach you all the rafting skills you’ll need, but it’s the quality of our staff and their ability to relate to customers that keeps our clients coming back year after year.

It’s also important to be a team player. No one enjoys working with someone who doesn’t do his or her share of the work. Raft trips are a group effort and you will be assessed on your ability to lend a helping hand.

Please note that completion of our guide school does not guarantee employment. Each individual is assessed on his or her own abilities and personality. Be genuine, be friendly and be caring – the rest will fall into place.

Whitewater Rafting Guide School 

May 14th – May 27th (14 Days)

1 instructor for 6 students

Maximum 12 students

COST: $680

The Instructional Phase of our guide school is May 14th to May 20th. During this time expect long days on and off the water. Learning the basics of steering a raft, using water, expect to get wet, swimming rapids, and learning self-rescue, etc. This is a very immersive week of instruction. An overview of instruction is below or we can email you a day-to-day outline.

May 21st – May 27th is for river time as a group. During this time you and your fellow classmates will move into raft groups where you will take turns guiding your own raft, you will go down the South Fork every day guiding your own raft or on the Middle and North Forks riding along with the Instructors and getting on the stick in the slower stretches. During this phase the instructors will be on hand to give advice, answer questions and assess your skills.

If you are offered employment with American Whitewater you will need First Aid and CPR certificates that are good for the entire rafting season. So it’s a good idea to have one before you start your school.

What is Included & What is NOT Included?

May 14th – May 20th

  • All Instruction.
  • Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner daily – you are expected to cook your own meals with food provided, do dishes etc.
  • All transportation from Camp to River
  • All River Fees and Taxes
  • Wetsuit, Booties, Splash Jacket
  • Lifejacket & Helmet
  • Group Camping area
  • 2 Person Tent & Foam Sleeping Pad

May 21st – May 27th

  • 6 days on the River South, Middle, or North Fork accompanying AWE Commercial Trips.
  • Passive Instruction and Guidance from Staff.
  • Lunch with Commercial Trip – no Breakfast/Dinner
  • Free Camping & Use of Tent, Pads etc.
  • Free Use of Wetsuit, Booties & Splash Jacket
  • Free Use of Lifejacket & Helmet

Guide’s school cost is $680. A $100.00 deposit is due when you sign up, with the balance due 30 days before the start of the school. The class size is limited to 12 students and is filled on a first-paid, first-admitted basis.

Brief overview of areas to be covered
(email us for a detailed day by day schedule)


  • Inventory of trip equipment
  • Loading of equipment in vehicles
  • Put-in procedures
  • How to pump up & fully rig boats
  • Individual safety talk

BOATING SKILLS (River navigation)

  • Forward paddle
  • Back paddle
  • Left & right turns
  • High side
  • Ferry angles
  • Obstacles
  • Use of current & crew
  • Swimming
  • River etiquette
  • Quiet zone
  • Water fights
  • Proper use of paddle
  • Customer safety
  • Assisting another boat
  • Assisting people back into boat after falling out


  • Self rescue
  • Flips
  • Wraps
  • Boat rips
  • River first aid
  • Swimmers
  • Guide exits
  • River knife
  • Throw bag skills
  • Knots and Rope Systems


  • Boats
  • Paddles
  • Pumps
  • First aid kits
  • Vehicles
  • Lifejackets


  • Breakfast, lunch & dinner prep
  • Clean up
  • Kitchen Etiquette
  • Serving River Lunch


  • Care & Instruction
  • Professionalism
  • Legal & Liability