Pro Raft Guide Training

Private Boaters: If you are a private boater looking to expand your skills and knowledge, or just get in on some preseason boating please look at the syllabus to decide which module to attend. You are welcome to attend one or more days of a specific module in order to focus in on what you're looking to learn. In an effort to support the local whitewater boating community and share knowledge and information for the benefit of all, all Triad guide training sessions will be open to the public for $50 per day, and can be booked easily online at any time. River schedule is listed below and you will receive emails with directions to meeting locations and any other information you'll need. Unless otherwise arranged, it is expected that you will have all of your own equipment. Our staff can help with some things like shuttles, pumps, etc.

Potential Future Guides of Triad River Tours: We offer a 3 module, 50 hour guide training curriculum which can be taken on a day by day basis at $50 per day or done over 3 weekends to complete the course and be offered a Guide Training certificate which meets and exceeds all legal requirements set forth in Washington RCW79A.60.430 The training provides more flexibility by allowing trainees to attend the same or different modules on different rivers as they move through their skill building progression. Guides that intend on working for Triad should make this explicit, and may be invited to attend all of the trainings. Each module is progressive, with skill building, rescue scenario enactment, and classroom study, to ensure that each subject is thoroughly retained, and repeatedly practiced. Guides that miss a day here or there can make it up under permission from their lead instructor to ensure they still qualify for the Washington State guide certification.

Guides attending a training who intend on working at Triad River Tours may attend more than the required trainings in order to enhance their skill set in preparation for professional guiding. All guide training participants must have current First Aid/CPR prior to training. We prefer that guides complete the SRT-1 course through Swiftwater Safety Institute prior to beginning guide training (the SRT-1 counts for approximately half of the legal requirement for your guides certificate). All modules must be completed in succession to receive certificate of completion. All guide training applicants are asked to have their own personal equipment (we will provide you with wholesale pricing and pro deals on gear); if you do not have your own gear Triad company equipment can be rented for $10/day for wetsuit/helmet/PFD. Guides who would like to be considered for employment should email a resume and statement of intent to

In the view of our management, we need to set the standard in the industry for quality assurance, training, and preparation for career guides. Obviously, our first priority is the safety of the public. We run whitewater rivers in a very unregulated state, which has some of the most dangerous river features possible (cold water, tree falls, changing river corridors) and one of the worst safety records (as a state) in the nation. We take this very seriously, and so should potential river guides. 

For decades, professional river guides have created a system of accountability, of respect for nature and human life, and a code for how to do your job. 50 years ago the Grand Canyon was the new frontier. More recent whitewater communities and hubs developed in West Virginia, Idaho, California, Colorado, and overseas in Africa, South America, Asia, and beyond. River guiding is a now global tradition, which starts with understanding the foundation of the lineage of river runners. The history of our profession reveals masters of our profession who came before us and did it right, did it safely, and they did it with less than what we have today. We can learn from history, from statistical data, from trial and error, and from field testing of our skills and methodologies.

2018 Training Dates

  • Packraft SRT w/ SSI: 4/14-15 (Snoqualmie)
  • Advanced Triad SRT w/ SSI: April 17-19 (Snoqualmie or Skykomish)
  • SRT-1 w/ SSI: 4/20-4/22 (Snoqualmie or Skykomish)
  • 2018 Guide Training runs (note: each of the 3 modules is required to qualify for Washington State Guide cert.): 
    • 4/28-29: | Skagit/Sauk
    • 5/5-5/6 | Skagit/Sauk 
    • 5/12-5/13 | Nooksack 
    • 5/19-5/20 | Snoqualmie/Skykomish
    • 5/26-5/27 | Snoqualmie/Skykomish
    • 6/2-6/3 | Skykomish
    • 6/9-6/10 | Skykomish
  • Idaho training runs and guide tryouts with Mammoth on Lochsa River (LO1): 4/7 or 4/14
  • Idaho Licensed Guide Training with MRO on Salmon River (SA7): 5/18-20 & 5/25-27
    • note: 3 training days qualifies for guides license; 6 days qualifies for lead boatman license. With a guides license you are legal on that section. With a lead boatman license you can 1) lead trips on that section, and 2) if you run any other commercial section in Idaho one time you will then be qualified to have a guides license on that section (which eliminates the need to run 3 trips on each section) in addition to your lead boatman license on the original section, and you can add any other rivers to that license (think Lochsa).

Protocol/Scouting Runs

note: these are open to staff only

Lead Guide Joshua Larsen shows rookie guides the proper way to slam up against Big House Rock in Boulder Drop on the Skykomish River, 2015. 

Lead Guide Joshua Larsen shows rookie guides the proper way to slam up against Big House Rock in Boulder Drop on the Skykomish River, 2015. 

Triad River Tours 4-tier Pay Scale (2018)

Note: detailed explanation of tiers and employee expectations can be found in the company handbook which you will be given if you're hired by Triad. The information listed here is a brief overview.


  • You will be paid more, and will be eligible to work more difficult and dangerous rivers if you have the following qualifications: 
    • Class 5 whitewater experience (AW standard rating) -or- 1500 miles of commercially navigated whitewater Class 3 or higher (AW standard rating) working as a professional guide.
    • Professional Safety Kayaking ability
    • Advanced Medical training (WFA, WFR, EMT)
    • SRT-1 certificate (preferably from SSI)

Triad pays on a 4 tier wage system paid per trip (all hourly work is addition). Because Washington State requires that all wages are broken down hourly, that is what is presented here. Trips are on average 4 hours apart from each other (if they go over that you'll be paid at the listed hourly rates). Our system is designed to run 3 trips per day. You can expect a 12 hour work day if you run 3 trips. This system correlates roughly to the following hourly wage rates: 

    1. WA state “living wage”. Note: 50 hour WA guide certification and First Aid/CPR card required
    2. $15/hr. Note: at least 2 of the above 4 criteria required
    3. $18.50/hr. Note: at least 3 of the above 4 criteria required 
    4. $25/hr. Note: River Manager (additional discretionary bonuses as agreed)
  • We pay a food allowance as allotted by your river manager, who, if you want us to pay for it, decides what you will eat.
  • We pay .50 cents per mile for any traveling that is done in a personal vehicle in service to Triad River Tours. 
  • We pay $20 per shuttle (not a guide dropping their car off and riding back in the bus; see above per mile basis for that)
  • Note that for tiers 2 and above we pay a $100 minimum per day. While guides are only running one trip we use these rare 1 trip days to take care of necessary work (cleaning buses, rigging rafts, checking inventories, scouting runs, training rookies, etc.) during the remaining time. We believe that any competent, experienced, profession

Real wages per trip/day

Triad River Tours Pay Tiers

*bonus structure in addition to wage 

**in 2017, roughly 75% of all paid trips were on 3 trip per day days, with 15% on 2 trip days, and 10% on 1 trip days. The Sauk and Skagit have a higher rate of 3 trip per day days, with the Sauk being 1st, Skagit 2nd, Skykomish 3rd, and Snoqualmie 4th in terms of highest per day average wage. 

Important Skills Training

(required for pay tiers 2-4)

1. SRT-1/Swiftwater Rescue Training: Triad River Tours offers a SRT-1 -swiftwater rescue training in partnership with Swiftwater Safety Institute. This 3 day course takes place on the Skykomish and/or Sauk Rivers (depending on river conditions), and provides graduates of the course with a 3 year certification. The non-exclusive course is 24 hours of coursework in total (most hours will count towards your 50 hour guide certification), and is mandatory for all current and hopeful guides of Triad River Tours. This SRT-1 course is specifically designed for river runners and is highly recommended for all river rafting and river guiding professionals. Attendees with varying levels of experience are welcome to attend. All Triad River Tours operations procedures, risk management protocols, and standards of safety are based on what you will learn in the SRT-1 curriculum. Each year we select our guide trainees from the SRT school, and put a great deal of emphasis on swiftwater rescue skills in our guide training program. If you would like to attend our upcoming SRT-1 course, please make your reservation as early as possible to ensure your spot. Details for the content this course can be found here. 

We like to see our potential rookie guides sign up for and pay for their SRT-1 training. This training usually takes place early in the year, during April. College students often will need to take one day (Friday) out of classes in order to attend. This training usually runs $300-350 in total. When we have a chance to see a guide applicant in action, and work with the rest of us in a neutral setting which is demanding in a similar way to our duties as guides, we have a better idea of how and if they will fit in with our program. 


2. WFA/Wilderness First Aid/EMT: After an SRT-1 training the next step is to make sure you have the proper First Aid capabilities. Even if you're on the river as a trainee, someone can always go underwater for too long, break an arm, or need to be evacuated. We really like the Wilderness First Aid course provided by Remote Medical International (click here to explore that course). These courses are often taught at Western Washington University in Bellingham as well as various locations in the Seattle area, and run about $200. The curriculum is up to date and extremely applicable to what we do. The Wilderness First Responder is a longer course which will give you the skills to deal with life threatening emergencies on multi-day trips, specifically in locations where you will be far away from Emergency Medical Services. The WFR is definitely a great course, but if you don't have time for it, the WFA is a great course and is acceptable for our guides. EMTs are eligible for promotion opportunities and tier advancements by default over guides with less comprehensive medical training; they are also compensated for additional responsibilities related specifically to their skill set and are handled on a case by case basis (example: they are paid to monitor first aid kits and oversee any accident reports). 


3. Washington 50 Hour Guide Certification: It is perfectly illegal in Washington to run commercial whitewater rafting trips on any whitewater section of river (click here for details) without completing an approved 50 hour guide training curriculum by a senior guide trainer (the legal minimum for commercial guides in the State of Washington is available by clicking here). We provide our employees who have not yet completed these requirements with access to an internship program which includes the 50 hour certification. We will help you get your certification, but you must put in the time and effort. We believe it is important for our guides to be exposed to a multitude of various river conditions and situations prior to working on commercial trips; thus, we give you plenty of time and opportunity to accomplish this during your first summer. We do not charge for our guide training program but it is lengthy and demanding (a copy of the minimum skills test can be found by clicking here). Guides should expect to invest at least half of their first summer working on their craft, and although we see many of our first year guides making well above the industry average in wages, we really want to see a high level of commitment to your training and attainment of river skill during your first year. 


Overview of our Company: Triad River Tours

Triad River Tours was founded on the idea that higher quality river rafting trips need not be extravagant. Rather, that the wonderful experiences and events that happen between families, friends, individuals, and mother nature, are contingent not on material comforts or duration of the experience, but rather the quality of relationships formed through providing a medium for those relationships to take place.

Here are a few key principles to abide by at our company. There are certainly ways that these ideas can develop and be improved upon (perhaps with your help) but in general, when you work at this company these are the 5 key philosophies that our employees need to be aligned with.

1.     You are the most vital part of our company. You are the image, so take seriously the way you present yourself, the way you speak to our guests, and the way you prepare yourself for working here.

2.     Nothing that we do is without risk. Recognize the truth of death and drowning, as well as other serious and non-serious injuries, which have occurred doing what we do. At no point fail to recognize the serious task and potential for liability for our company you are charged with when you are taking people down a river for money.

3.     Be open with the people you work with. There is a difference between complaining and constructively criticizing a system or the manner in which a coworker completed a task. We are all here to openly communicate with each other to run better trips that do a better job of serving our clientele. It is how we stay in business. You should never hold back to voice your opinion in any situation where appropriate (be careful in front of guests, though).

4.     Be a professional. You are paid a professional wage and you are expected to go about your duties in a way that is consistent with our message of complete and total professionalism towards our guests. This is an ambiguous subject, but if you take is seriously, do some research, and listen to and follow the lead of the lead guides you surround yourself with, it will be easy for you to develop the kind of professionalism necessary to do well in the Triad system. The way you communicate, the way you present yourself, the way you prepare, and the way you get things done all stems from your degree of professionalism. Our company is designed to treat you like a professional, not a piece of human capital.

5.     Be creative. Your creative abilities and your work ethic are a big part of our success; make sure to use them, as they are vital to our success, and to yours. Do not come to work expecting to be told what to do if you are being paid; that is what training is for. You are participating and being compensated for your professional skill set, as well as your ability to contribute to the improvement, progression, and perfection of our systems and protocols. It is vital that you do not become a static piece of human equipment. You must always be able to find within you and connect with a passion for what you do, which can be used to creatively get through situations with or without guidance. It is our core belief that people work better when they are allowed to be themselves. If you do not fit in with our system, simply do not work here. We want you to be creative, to be expressive, and to recognize the influence you have on this company. It’s very important that you learn to be a very successful self-manager. You will be treated as a professional. Professionals are not told what to do every second of every day. All guides and employees of all kinds at Triad River Tours are considered valuable assets for their unique way of going about things. We are not in the business of putting necessary barriers around your abilities; we are here to empower you so that you can bring your unique set of skills to our trips.


Company History


Triad River Tours was founded in October of 2012 by Luke Baugh, a multi-day rafting guide from Idaho who also worked in the outdoor industry as a marketing agent and salesperson in addition to holding several positions at multiple outfitting companies around the US beginning in 2000. Triad was originally based on the Sauk and Skagit River systems, and only through growth and guide influence has it expanded to its current size. Each year, since 2013, Triad has grown on an average of 39% annually. At this time Triad River Tours holds the distinction of being the largest whitewater rafting outfitter in terms of guest participation on the Upper Skagit (SK5), Upper Sauk (Sauk-1), and Snoqulamie (Sno-1) Rivers.

Ethical Principles

Triad River Tours represents a forward thinking and innovative look into the future of the outdoor guiding industry. Triad is a risk taking company, and nearly all of it’s success can be attributed to ignoring the mainstream and decidedly relying on it’s guides’ talent and abilities to make creative decisions, along with continuous refinement of procedures through open and clear communication. Triad is a leave no trace outfitter and believes strongly that more people should be able to have access to wild public lands, and proceeds to lead by example in terms of river etiquette and conservation.


Statement of Equal Opportunity


Triad River Tours is an equal opportunity employer with social justice goals. We are committed to providing a work environment that is both accepting and in compliance with all applicable laws regarding employment discrimination.  Triad’s policy is not to discriminate by reason of race, color, religion, disability, sex/gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, genetic information, citizenship status, national origin, age, or veteran status.  In addition, we promise to comply with all applicable laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on any other factor.


Triad River Tours will make a reasonable accommodation for all individuals with a disability, unless doing so would result in an undue hardship for our company.  We want the most cohesive workplace possible, and are prepared to make compromises for those with disabilities in order to keep our company as diverse in personnel as we are in innovation. Any employee who is aware of discriminatory conduct or who has any concern about a possible violation of this policy should immediately report the conduct or concern to his or her supervisor, designated human resource personnel or any corporate officer.


Employee Professionalism


Even though we are not a large corporation, we believe that the behavior and professionalism of our guides pervades into the industry; we believe in leading by example.  All guides are required to respect their peers and ensure a safe and positive work environment for all employees.  We are all professionals creating a professional workplace atmosphere, sometimes far away from home.  Triad River Tours is truly dedicated to ensuring a positive workforce, and we feel that one of the ways to do that is to remain committed to a diverse workplace. This is a workplace that relies heavily on teamwork, and interpersonal communication, it is critical that all employees who work for Triad or wish to work for Triad, also respect all people.  


More Info about working at Triad

Swiftwater Safety Institute Instructors setting a log pin recovery drill for SRT-1 course attendees, Elwha River 2015

Swiftwater Safety Institute Instructors setting a log pin recovery drill for SRT-1 course attendees, Elwha River 2015

For guides looking to work for us; we need you to know what to do and how to handle the multitudes of emergencies that could potentially happen on any river trip. Talk is cheap, and every commercial outfitter talks a good game when it comes to river safety; but it's a very different matter to be on the river getting ready when temperatures are cold and no one is there to watch you (or post photos to your Instagram). 

Our staff is loaded with extraordinarily talented and qualified professional guides; we believe firmly that not only do we have the most well compensated guide staff, we have the most competent. At Triad River Tours, we pride ourselves on minimalist style rafting trips, superbly executed by expert guides who use great equipment and a vast selection of preferred techniques that form a collectively stout approach to river safety. Our approach starts with research and preparation; that means that every day we possibly can be, we are on the river. The company pays for many extra guide training trips that are specifically catered to enhancing and expanding the abilities of our younger guides. We have an extensive online database with excellent information on relevant topics such as swiftwater rescue, cold water immersion, risk management and statistical probabilities, detailed and interactive maps, procedural lists and system details, and much more, so that our guides are always well equipped with the right information to get the job done. 

Guiding is often glorified by the uninitiated, but make no mistake, this is a very serious business with potentially serious consequences. Every year dozens of people die while recreational river rafting, and while we can't control every aspect of the river, we can control aspects of ourselves, our approach, our knowledge, and our equipment. That's where the proper training comes in. 

Note: If you're an experienced commercial rafting guide looking for a place where your skill and experience are valued, please contact us directly at (360) 510-1243 or email us at; feel free to look over the requirements listed on this website, but be mindful that this page is meant for our first year guide applicants. Experienced veteran guides should be aware that we will expect you to read this website and contact us after you have decided you are serious about working for us. 

The Advantage of Swiftwater Rescue Training

At Triad River Tours we reward and encourage guides to have a current SRT-1 certification, and prefer that this certification is from Swiftwater Safety Institute, out of Jackson, Wyoming. All of our company safety protocols and operational systems are based upon the principles of safety taught by SSI. Having a Swiftwater Rescue certification isn't just a matter of liability, and it's not just one more thing to check off your list and add to your resume. The core curriculum of our guide training and that of the SRT-1 by Swiftwater Safety Institute are the building blocks of our company's systems for running safe river trips. This is stuff we believe in. Triad River Tours is a big believer in staying ahead of the game when it comes to swiftwater rescue techniques, equipment, and overall methodology because our guides are what sell our trips. When we put the most qualified guides on the river with the best possible equipment, we know that we stand the best chance of impressing our guests so that they will come back again and again. Despite the reality that swims happen all the time and it is inevitable, generally, people want to stay in the raft and they want themselves and their friends/family to stay safe. With Western Washington ranking among the deadliest of commercial whitewater rafting state based industries, and one of the least regulated, we believe it is critical that our guides and guests are as informed and prepared as possible for every danger on the river. The dynamic nature of the geologically active rivers in Washington make them especially challenging from a risk management viewpoint, and thus, they are exceptionally well suited to teach swiftwater rescue to the public and to our guides. Furthermore, the team dynamic at our company is one of individual reliability and accountability. We are a creative group of outdoor professionals. Our trust and dedication to one another is one which is based on respect, and respect comes from believing in your fellow guides. When we run into a situation on the river, be it an emergency or just a flat tire, we want to know that the person next to us is going to give us quality recommendations and ideas. Working creatively amidst chaos and danger is our job, and to do it most effectively we must do it together. It all starts with each of us knowing our jobs, and trusting in each others abilities.

There is no substitute for first hand experience when it comes to whitewater. First and second year guides are rarely as equipped or as qualified as more seasoned guides who have more river miles and more exposure to different types of rescues. A properly designed, whitewater river guide applicable SRT is one that distills down the most common accidents and problems on commercial rafting trips, and focuses on the best possible methods of resolving those problems. The Swiftwater Safety Institute offers an SRT-1 course specifically designed for whitewater guides, and it is taught by some of the most respected multi-day guides in our industry. This is the foundation of knowledge that require of all of our tier 2-4 guides. The emphasis we put on attaining a raft guide centric SRT-1 is representative of our ethical focus on public safety and leading by example, and is echoed in our compensation schedule which is designed to preclude guides without this skill set from working our more challenging rivers. Of note, in 2017 all but one of our guide staff had an SRT-1. 

By working with and sponsoring trainings in Washington State with the Swiftwater Safety Institute, we have teamed up with some of the most informed and well practiced swiftwater rescue trainers in the world, with a curriculum specifically tailored towards recreational whitewater boating. The Swiftwater Safety Institute, based out of Jackson, Wyoming, is in our opinion the clear industry leader in cutting edge procedures and risk management detail. We cooperate with them to produce what we think is the most effective swiftwater rescue training in the state. Swiftwater Safety Institute and Triad River Tours share common goals and company creeds, including theory and practical skill sets that each and every guide should have before taking a paid client down the river. We believe in creative adaptations in real world situations based on likely scenarios, with a clear chain of command, and a step by step approach to rescue, recovery, and prevention. Our partnership with SSI exemplifies the values of our company. While we look around and see others looking at what kind of barbeque sauce to use and how much potato salad each person should have, we spend our off season training, practicing, refining, and redefining our approach to safety, so that each year we come into the game prepared for any situation. We believe that every professional river guide should be compensated fairly, above industry standard, and effectively on par with living wage professionals. Sustaining great guides over time is a costly endeavor, but we believe it is worth the time and expense both in relation to business, as well as our ethical relationship to the river and our guests. Proper training is invaluable for incoming guides, and each guide is required to pursue advanced medical training, and swiftwater rescue training. While we do not see rescue scenarios every day, we view it as our duty to be prepared to rescue not only ourselves, but any of our friends that happen to be on the river and need our help. Being prepared for every situation starts with bringing the right equipment, the right personnel, and the ability to synergize the two in order to protect human life from the invariable dangers of whitewater river running. 


Guide Training Outline 

(note: all guides are required to pass both written and hands on competency tests)

Recommended Reading List: 

The Guides Guide Augmented by William McGinnis

Triad "Guides Instructional" online database (login provided to trainees upon program acceptance)

River Rescue by Les Bechtel/Slim Ray

Swiftwater Safety Institute Field Manual

Government Agencies | Partnerships | Sourced Educational Materials 

United States Forest Service

National Parks Service

Department of Natural Resources

Bureau of Land Management

WA State Legislature

Washington State Parks

Skagit County Parks and Recreation

King County Parks

American Outdoors Association

American Whitewater

Swiftwater Safety Institute

Remote Medical International

Minimum Skills and Knowledge Requirements


Prusik (3 wrap)


Double Fishermans


Girth Hitch

Figure 8 (on a bite)

Directional Figure 8

Reading water


Preventative Rescues

Google Maps

USGS Hydrographs

Time vs. Hurrying





River Right, River Left






Laterals and Diagonals

Keeper Holes and Recirculating Holes

Ferry Angles

Running Rivers

Safety Talk (Styles: NRS, Bearpaw, TRT)

River Study (maps, flow charts, protocols)

Paddle Guiding

Stern Mount & Paddle Assist

Center mount


Hand Signals (OK, First Aid, Eddy Out, Whistle Blasts)

Defensive Swimmer Position

Aggressive Swimming in whitewater and self rescue

Chain of Command (Guides, Trip Leaders, River Managers, Rescue Boss, Incident Commander,)


Wading (single person, A-frame, “triangle” or “pivot”, wedge)

Drowning and Near Drowning





Pins or “wraps”


Head injuries

Pre-existing medical conditions & cardiac arrest

Foot entrapments




Drugs and Alcohol

Improper or Improper use of equipment

Hubris and Arrogance

Boat and Victim Recovery

Throw Bag Skills

Strong Swimmer Rescues

3-1 Z drag

Anchor systems

Vector Pulls

Tension Diagonal

Self Rescue



Personal Equipment





Clothing (wetsuit/drysuit etc.)


Throw bag


First Aid Kit

Cell Phone

Company Equipment


First Aid Kit





Pin Kits

Evacuation Phones

Guest Equipment




Booties (if applicable)

Liability Release Forms

Business and Legal Knowledge

Liability and Insurance


Standard of Care

Duty to Rescue

Employee Handbook




Notes: Company approved references: Swiftwater Safety Institute Manual, Remote Medical International WFA or WFR Manual, River Rescue by Les Bechtel, The Guides Guide Augmented by William McGinnis, Safety Code of American Whitewater (online)

Guide Training Exam Study Guide

The rookie examination will be two parts. 1 written exam (1 hour) and 1 hands on exam (1/2 day). These exams will be primarily based upon: 


  • All on river training sessions
  • Anything a lead guide has ever told you or thinks you should know
  • Swiftwater Safety Institute Handbook
  • RMI WFA Handbook
  • River Trip Protocols (Evernote)
  • Rookie Checklist
  • Employee Handbook
  • Safety Code of American Whitewater
  • Article: “The Chilling Truth about Cold Water Immersion” 
  • Our company website and anything it has a link to
  • “Sharing the Skagit” (on Evernote)
  • Washington State Legislation RCW 79A



Guide Training Video Opportunities

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