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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
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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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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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. :twisted:

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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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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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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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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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/parks/ArkansasHeadwatersRecreationArea/Documents/BoatingQualificationFormDigital.pdf

If the guide school is decent, you will have this form filled out by the end.
 

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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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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the info guys. I looked at Far Flung's website last night and it looks like a good school. Doing the Rio Grande and the Chama would be right up my ally. We took our duckies on the Rio Grande near Creede, CO in 2013. That is a outstanding and beautiful place.

Can anyone explain to me why Far Flung's whitewater class is more money than the guid school and swift water rescue class put together? Not to mention you have to bring a lot of gear with you that could be expensive if you don't have it all already. Is it just the more risk of class lV?


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Steve,

wish I could give you current feedback.

my experience with both Far Flung and Destination Wilderness is probably ten or more years ago.

Hopefully, some one with more current experience with both these companies will help you.

I have been on the Rio up around Creede. Beautiful but the Lower Box is more of a challenge. Pilar at normal levels is more challenge that up at Creede and is great move up from the Rio Chama. I usually hit Taos once a year for a week. Been low water around Taos for a while. Maybe more snow up there this upcoming season. The progression Far Flung used from Rio Chama, Pilar ending with Lower Box is a good one for instruction given normal water flows that is around 2000 cfs at the Bridge. If you go, find time either before or after Far Flung to eat in Dixon as Zeos (spelling may be off) a few miles below Pilar take out or Sugar's BBQ a few more miles down river.
 

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I would just repeat what okie said, including retirement. My pension is just okay, but I think the interest on just one month is more than a season of guiding. FarFlung has been on my list for three, going on four years. The problem is sucky scheduling, they are always going when I'm already going somewhere else. I considered Timberline for May, but Gore Canyon and the youthful insane would harsh my mellow. Still, be one hell of a ride.
 

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Note something about FarFlung, they are an oar school. Oar usually equal two student per boat, 1 instructor. Paddle schools are usually 5 or 6 students per boat 1 instructor. Also, FarFlung does multi-day/over night trips. WW paddle was usually two, 4 hour trips of the same run, and then back to the shop. My oar was with a fly fishing shop, and a long day swapping between students. To find other oar school search on 'rowing' instead of just rafting. And even tho we were fly fishing, we got in one Class IV run, and so says my cert sheet and my log.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Note something about FarFlung, they are an oar school. Oar usually equal two student per boat, 1 instructor. Paddle schools are usually 5 or 6 students per boat 1 instructor. Also, FarFlung does multi-day trips. WW paddle was usually two, 4 hour trips and then back to the shop.

Sounds like a plus to me. I really want to try paddle rafting, but our rig is set up as an oar boat and all our boating friends have oar rigs. I think a rowing school would be best suited for my needs.


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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.
The OARS rowing clinic my wife and I did on the Rogue this spring was five full days on the water, although admittedly not all class 4 water. The focus was to prepare us to be able to safely run our own multiday raft trips, either private or as a guide (although OARS does have a more intensive guide's school in Cali they encourage you to attend if you are interested in working for OARS.). We did learn to row, or learned to improve our rowing technique and water reading ability. Everyone got as much time on the oars as they wanted and, based on your level, you were constantly challenged. I lost count of how many times I was asked, at the very last second, to hit a certain eddy or make a particular ferry, some of them pretty damn tough. But that was only a small part of the trip. Anything was fair game to ask and learn, from put-in to take out. Every meal was a teaching and participating experience. We spent two hours in a steady rain learning knots. Another day the guides showed us various raft flipping techniques. They even drug a raft up a side stream and wrapped in on a rock, for us to learn and practice various rope techniques include Z drags and variations. We had first aid and raft repair sessions. No question was too simple, including how to best tie a raft to shore in rivers with and without tides. The guides worked hard every day, they definitely did not mail in in. Kate, our trip leader, was excellent, as were the others.

The entire group felt this was an excellent learning experience. Of our group, 4 of us went on to lead successful trips later that summer on the Grand and Main Salmon (most already having some to lots of whitewater experience in kayaks etc). But as I learned, after over 30 years as a kayaker, and as most of you here already know, reading the river and choosing a line is different in a loaded 16' raft.

Oh, yeah. We had fun too. I would go back in a heartbeat.

- Jon Snider
 

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The OARS rowing clinic my wife and I did on the Rogue this spring was five full days on the water, although admittedly not all class 4 water.
I assume you're talking about OARS' Rogue River Rowing Clinic ? I did it in the spring a year ago (2013) and also thought it was excellent. However, I can't say I got as much time on the oars as I'd have liked, because there were 6 boats, 12 students, and 3 guide/instructors. That meant you were on the sticks about half the time, and with an instructor half the time (time you were on the sticks, or not). For example, I didn't get to row Blossom (the crux of the Rogue). However, I'd be surprised if ANY of the schools allow for you to be rowing more than half the time - it just seems impractical. Ditto on the comments about Kate and crew doing a great job of teaching, both on and off the water.

I am tempted by the "advanced" version of the clinic (that I linked earlier in this thread), but as noted, it is considerably more money for less time.
 

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A good course should teach both to oar and paddle command a raft. What happens if you are oaring and break multiple oars? It helps to have options. If I have my family, younger kids, I oar it. If I have a group of friends, we paddle it. Being flexible allows you to run more stuff.

The state reg may be 50 hrs, in Colorado, but all the outfitters I know require 100+ hours before they will hire you on. You should get at least 50 hours of certifiable log hrs in the class, the rest is up to you. The way that works is after the class, you need to ride a long with an instructor to get more hrs. This gives you more experience and demonstrates to the outfitter who and what you are like. If it all goes well, you will have a job when it is done. You do have to sign up for guide training early. There will only be so many slots open and when they fill the classes, your out of luck.
 

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As far as the OARS advanced rowing school being offered this year, it is based on a request from guests. The course is going to be limited to a few folks which increases the costs. I do work for OARS and very well might be teaching this course, but I do not know all the details, so this is just my 2 cents.
From what I have heard a good guide school for less money that will show you paddle guiding, rowing and multi days is Dvorak's guide school. Again just my 2 cents.
 
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