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Old 01-03-2015   #1
 
InflatableSteve's Avatar
 
Cave Creek, Arizona
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Guide Schools?

Thinking about possibly going to guide school in a couple years and I have a few questions. I am considering becoming a guide (most likely on scenic stretches and not so much high flow whitewater), but I would like to go to guide school to improve my private boating even if becoming a commercial Guid doesn't work out.

I didn't really find much during the bit of research I have done, just that about every major outfitter offers a guid school. So that leads to question #1, who offers the best schools and what sets their school apart from others?

Looks like most if not all of these schools involve camping on the river for part of the program, but do they offer lodging for classroom days, or do I need to look for a motel or something for those days?


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Old 01-03-2015   #2
 
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Cave Creek, Arizona
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Accidentally hit the post button early so here we continue.

All the schools I have looked at so far only offer class lll guide certification. How do you go about getting higher certification for class lV and V whitewater?

What companies are more likely to hire after completion of their school?

Any other tips or info will be helpful.

Thanks

Steven.


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Old 01-03-2015   #3
 
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Salida, Colorado
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Most places would be able to point to you local camping if you asked. There aren't any guiding companies that teach a raft guide school over class III for insurance reasons. Yes, they certainly do run commercial trips on class IV and some V, but no reputable school would teach a new rafter (at least new to them) on that water. You would have to put in hours on class III and then subsequently get checked out for anything higher or for a specific section.
As for teaching to someone who wants to remain a private boater, Far Flung Adventures in Taos, NM will sometimes run a "rowing clinic." It's basically a guide school for folks who want to get professional instruction in whitewater rafting, but aren't interested in being a commercial guide. Call them, they're very nice.
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Old 01-04-2015   #4
 
NIMBY, Oregon
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First off... there is no such thing as Class 1-6 guide certification for rafting. That is the first indicator to find another school. Having a trip log or documented commercial experience is all there is. The majority of guide schools offer nothing more than certificates of completion from the outfitter. There are outfitters that offer schools combined with a Rescue 3 SRT(swift-water rescue technician) certification, which is nationally recognized, but that will cost a bit more. Having an SRT and a wilderness medicine cert. will make you desirable to all companies regardless of your skills in a boat.

Second, there are only two different types of schools; base camp and expedition. Base camp guide schools involve more time on the water and less time moving gear. Expeditions show you how to run that companies multi-day trip while boating. Anything else will be a waste of your time. So deciding what you want to get out of the school should be your first decision.

Third, there are a few outfitters that offer class 4-5 guide schools. Most do this over spring break/last week in March. Just Google "Cal Salmon Guide School" and take your pick. The Cal Salmon offers a unique setting; not only because it is a free flowing wild and scenic river, but also due to it having class 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5 sections in one drainage. On day three, most of them will have you on the class 3-4 section if the instructors think it will be beneficial. None of the outfitters plan on letting students drive the 4-5 section, but it has happened to few gifted pupils. PM me for info on the outfitters, because I am not going open that can of worms on a public forum.

In my professional opinion, all other guide schools are inferior to Cal Salmon schools.

If you want to know who is hiring out of their guide school, call the outfitter and ask them if they plan on hiring that season. If you get hired after the school, you will go through a certain number of training trips on every river before they turn you loose with clients.

All the outfitters I know of are near campgrounds or national forest, so finding a place to stay nearby should be zero trouble.
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Old 01-04-2015   #5
 
Idaho Springs, Colorado
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There really isn't any school for Class 4/5 certifications. It's called time and experience. Besides certs don't mean anything. Experience and knowledge is everything. Baby steps leads to respect for the river. Good luck!

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Old 01-04-2015   #6
 
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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OARS offers this new course, and calls it Class III-IV:

California Advanced Rowing Clinic | OARS California Rafting
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Old 01-04-2015   #7
 
Castle Rock, Colorado
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Having been thru two different guide schools in Colo in the last two years I offer the following.

1) Most of the state governments have a guide certification process. In Colorado it mandates 50 hours of on-river instruction. Note the on-river. It further limits guides to running WW at the level covered in the class. Very, very few schools will NOT do at least one complete day that includes Class IV. Since the schools are usually affiliated with an outfitter, and used as a source for employees for the upcoming season, they would be limiting their ability to run trips if they didn't certify at Class IV.

2) The states audit the hell out of those programs, and no shop will risk its permits by using uncertified guides.

3) Most of the training will focus on the water the outfitter will offer trips on during the season. The training is very much part of their employee selection process, and most will fill their first year guide slots only from students who have completed their course.

4) Most shops specialize, either on paddle or on oar. We did 8 days of oar in my first class, 11 days of paddle and 1 of oar in my second. This will again reflect the underlying business of the outfitter.

5) FarFlung is a very good outfitter and offers about the only non-fishing focused oar program I know of. I did not take mine from them because of water conditions that year, but they would be very good to talk to.

6) All of the guide schools will tell you they are by-god-wonderful and better than the rest. Bottom line is they HAVE to follow the material required in the state certification process. I know that Timberline Tours in Eagle, CO will offer its 12 day class in May, and will charge $500 for it. TT regularly is the home of the US rafting team, and some of the instructors will be national champions. Greg, the owner, considers $500 a fair price. You will undoubtably encounter other shops with lesser references willing to charge you far more.

7) $500 for 12 days of boating is a screaming bargain. You beat the crap out of their boats, they run the shuttles, you are in boats with some of the best boaters you will encounter, you will run water you probably wouldn't normally, and you will learn everyday from instructors with 10-12 years of experience.
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Old 01-04-2015   #8
 
NIMBY, Oregon
Paddling Since: Womb
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jge1 View Post
OARS offers this new course, and calls it Class III-IV:

California Advanced Rowing Clinic | OARS California Rafting
This is a prime example of what to look out for... $1300 for 4 days of instruction, in which half of one day is spent riding in a van to Lumsden. What qualifies it as "Advanced"? The SF American and that section of the Tuolumne are far from it.

If you're going to spend that kind of dough, you can afford a trip to Chile and attend a guide school on the Futaleufu.
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Old 01-04-2015   #9
 
NIMBY, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plecoptera View Post
Having been thru two different guide schools in Colo in the last two years I offer the following.

1) Most of the state governments have a guide certification process. In Colorado it mandates 50 hours of on-river instruction. Note the on-river. It further limits guides to running WW at the level covered in the class. Very, very few schools will NOT do at least one complete day that includes Class IV. Since the schools are usually affiliated with an outfitter, and used as a source for employees for the upcoming season, they would be limiting their ability to run trips if they didn't certify at Class IV.

2) The states audit the hell out of those programs, and no shop will risk its permits by using uncertified guides.

3) Most of the training will focus on the water the outfitter will offer trips on during the season. The training is very much part of their employee selection process, and most will fill their first year guide slots only from students who have completed their course.

4) Most shops specialize, either on paddle or on oar. We did 8 days of oar in my first class, 11 days of paddle and 1 of oar in my second. This will again reflect the underlying business of the outfitter.

5) FarFlung is a very good outfitter and offers about the only non-fishing focused oar program I know of. I did not take mine from them because of water conditions that year, but they would be very good to talk to.

6) All of the guide schools will tell you they are by-god-wonderful and better than the rest. Bottom line is they HAVE to follow the material required in the state certification process. I know that Timberline Tours in Eagle, CO will offer its 12 day class in May, and will charge $500 for it. TT regularly is the home of the US rafting team, and some of the instructors will be national champions. Greg, the owner, considers $500 a fair price. You will undoubtably encounter other shops with lesser references willing to charge you far more.

7) $500 for 12 days of boating is a screaming bargain. You beat the crap out of their boats, they run the shuttles, you are in boats with some of the best boaters you will encounter, you will run water you probably wouldn't normally, and you will learn everyday from instructors with 10-12 years of experience.
^^^This is a great info, and $500 is a screamin' deal.

Interesting about Colorado... nice to see a local government having some stipulations for outfitters on record. OR/CA have requirements, but they just take the owners word for it.

Here is the CO form... http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/pa...ormDigital.pdf

If the guide school is decent, you will have this form filled out by the end.
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Old 01-04-2015   #10
 
Jenks, Oklahoma
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When I retired I thought I wanted to be a commercial river guide. Spending time with actual working guides told me that the pay to work required ratio was not acceptable even to a retired person with plenty of time to goof off. Having to suck up to the occasional custie who was more of a jerk than anything else was hard for me to accept at that particular point in my life as well.

I took the Far Flung Guide school several times. Reason I really enjoyed the instructors. I am a decent student but learned a lot each time I took the clinic. At the time there were two of the most senior guide instructors at Far Flung and man did they know their stuff. The Rio Chama is their over night followed by multiple days on Rio Grande Pilar then a couple days on the Lower Box. It was all oars in 14 ft good rafts when I took it. Been some time and I do not know even if they still offer Guide school but it used to be a great place to learn or tune up rowing as that was their thing and they did it well.

I always wanted to row in the North West and decided to follow up at Destination Wilderness guide school. Mainly cause they did the Rogue and guide school allowed me to row not ride. By that time I had plenty of experience rowing. We did several excellent area rivers besides the Rogue at Destination Wilderness. Their Chief Instructor was a gent named Greg who I thought was at the top of the list of guide instructors. Had his own fishing guide business in the NW and off season he rowed down in Chile on the big gnarly runs on the Futalaflue (spelling?). Destination Wilderness did paddle and row boats. I asked for and got to stay in the rafts. Besides boat time, Greg does a outstanding job on teaching other aspects of off river technique several sessions each day including multiple swift water rescue stuff and all were good. I also enjoyed the cooking and dutch oven stuff they taught as required parts of their clinics (on one of their trips we had a french chef who was part of the instructor crew and did the clinic as a break - the man could cook for sure). Been a while but Destination Wilderness did a overall outstanding job I thought.

Some one mentioned guide school as a great way to float when you want to row. I agree big time on this. Getting my gear up to the NW takes a lot of money and time. The second time I took the Destination Wilderness clinic they knew exactly why I was there and let me row all the time mostly on my own. They had brand new Avon rafts that season, open oarlocks and it was about as good as it gets.

I think both companies hired from their schools. I went up to Destination Wilderness a couple days early, stayed a day after and basically lived with the guides. The amount of work river guides do to prepare, during and clean up gear after trips is just astonishing. My heart goes out to those who do this work for a living as they earn their pay and tips big time.

A side benefit for the private boater is I made friends in these clinics from all over that I still boat with as private boaters.

Based on my personal experience with these two companies and lots of research with other commercials - in my opinion statements that all except one company's guide school is inferior to that one company makes me grin. Like any thing else some are good, some bad but most do a good job at what they do. I think a lot of what a person learns is the attitude that take to the clinic. The more open minded, attention you pay and willingness to work on what ever is being taught is the key factor to learning at these clinics.

I can say both Far Flung and Destination Wilderness made me one heck of a lot safer and more skilled oarsman and river tripper in general. Well worth the money and time I spent with both companies. I mostly did kayaks in my boating career and both companies gave me a worth the money jump start rowing rafts. In fact my first Destination Wilderness three students showed up all of us kayakers wanting to raft. Destination Wilderness bit the bullet and with three instructors two 14 ft oar rigs and one big time gear rig we were well schooled for Grand Canyon trips with personal attention and feedback. Worth the money to me for sure. Using their gear and transport took all the planning out of the deal. Basically show up and they take it from there. Highly recommend private boaters take a guide school where ever they can. I believe it makes for more fun as a private boater and makes you appreciate what the guides do when you do go on a commercial fun trip.
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