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

WAO Guide since 2001

"I wanted to let you know how pleased we all were with the experience we had with your company. We all felt like Adam was the best guide on the river and when we come back we will definitely request him. Thanks again!"

Chad Swafford

Colorado Raft guide Jobs & Training


Employment with Whitewater Adventure Outfitters

Experienced Guides

If you are an experienced guide looking for work in Colorado, please contact us directly via email at Tony@waorafting.com 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.

Guide Training Program

Cost $400 - Our course typically begins the Monday prior to Memorial Day weekend.

*Training starts Monday - May 23rd in 2016*

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 1992 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 over 20 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. 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
  • Watch - water proof is good.
  • River rescue knife
  • Several cam straps of various lengths
  • Flip line
  • Whistle
  • Guide Paddle

Cold weather gear, such as paddle jackets, 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 qualified 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 less than $2500 (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 $35 per Half Day - $65 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 $200 to be accepted in our program.

If you wish to contact us with any additional questions or concerns call - 800 530 8212. Or contact our operations manager via email at Tony@waorafting.com

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Are you legally eligible to work in the U.S.? yes | no
Are you a student? yes | no if yes where
Have you ever been on a rafting trip? yes | no
Do you have current First Aid & CPR certifications? yes | no
Do you consider yourself a strong swimmer? yes | no
Can you work until at least August 15th? yes | no
Do you have reliable transportation? yes | no

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If a chicken and a half can lay an egg and a half in a day and a half, how long would it take a chimpanzee, with a wooden leg, to kick the seeds out of a dill pickle?


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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 800 530 8212 to apply or email Kathy@waorafting.com

Office Staff

Bright, friendly, customer service oriented individuals should contact Kathy@waorafting.com to apply for office staff positions. Good computer skills and phone skills required. Team players only.