Have you ever dreamed of becoming a commercial river guide? In the state of Colorado, river guides and their employing outfitters must meet criteria set forth by the state’s regulating body, Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Most outfitters offer their own guide courses which meet the state standards. Three Rivers Outfitting in Almont, Colorado offers a new guide training course in May of each year. Anywhere from 15 to 30 participants take the course, hoping to become river guides for raft and/or fishing trips.

Minimum Qualifications

The state of Colorado specifies that: A guide shall have a minimum of fifty hours of on-river training utilizing paddles and/or oars, and any other equipment that the guide will be using on regulated trips. Of this fifty hours, thirty hours shall be with a qualified guide instructor aboard the same vessel with the trainee. The remaining twenty hours shall be with a qualified guide instructor on the same training trip. Twenty hours of training shall occur on the river on which the guide will be guiding regulated trips or on a river section of comparable difficulty.

Three Rivers Outfitting provides this certification in order to train and hire new guides each year. Over the course of 10 days guides will make multiple runs on the river sections that they may eventually guide. They will learn about reading and navigating water, safety, rescue, ropes and boat rigging/loading and they must be certified in First Aid and CPR.

Flipping Boats & Swimming!

Colorado River Guide training, River Outfitters, Taylor River, Almont, Colorado
Flipping Rafts

There is no better way to practice rescue techniques than getting in the water to simulate incidents that may happen on the river with customers. This includes flipping boats completely and then righting them again. Everybody’s favorite day (sarcasm) is the swim day where all guide trainees jump into the frigid waters of the Taylor River, practice swimming and throwing rescue ropes to one another. This is a shocking experience that helps guides understand how their customers will feel if they fall overboard. It usually snows on swim day!

More Qualifications

Colorado River Guide Training, Taylor River, Almont, Colorado
River Guide Swimming

After meeting the minimum qualifications, new guides must ride along on commercial trips and practice guiding with an instructor guide on board. Eventually, they will be “checked out” on each section of river they wish to guide. In the seasons to come, guides will accumulate river miles on log sheets in a quest to be a “trip leader” which requires at least 250 commercial river miles and 250 private river miles. Being a trip leader often allows for promotions, more pay and the ability to take a commercial trip alone if there is only one boat of customers. Some trip leaders will then go on to log 750 commercial and 750 private miles to become Instructor Guides. While all of these qualifications take time, those who are serious about having a career as a river guide will pursue each step with the hopes of one day becoming a head boatsman or maybe an independent guide, contracted by multiple outfitters.


Cabins, Rocky Mountains, Almont, Colorado
River Cabins

Three Rivers Outfitting is based inside Three Rivers Resort on the Taylor River in Almont, Colorado. It’s the perfect Rocky Mountain basecamp for rafting, fishing, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and skiing. Offering 60+ lodging units, guests may choose from rustic cabins to upscale cabins on the river with private hot tubs, lodge rooms, vacation homes and even RV sites. The summertime Smokehouse restaurant and Willowfly Anglers fly shop and guide service round out the resort amenities. Visit www.3riversresort.com or call 970-641-1303.

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