Whitewater River Guides & Training
Information on this page:
Triad River Tours pay scale
Swiftwater Rescue (the cornerstone of our operation)
Advanced Medical (beyond legally required First Aid and CPR)
Washington State Guide Certification (legal requirement)
Commercial Drivers License (love the bus and it will love you)
A Letter to incoming veteran applicants
Guide Living Arrangements
Statement on Equal Opportunity
2019 Guide Training Dates and Online Reservations
Swiftwater Safety Institute Course Schedule
Triad River Tours Guide Training Dates
Guide Training Outline
A letter to incoming rookie guides
Guide Training Program Overview
First Year Guide Exam Study Guide
1. Triad River Tours’ Pay Scale (2019)
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) -and/or- 1500 miles of commercially navigated whitewater Class 3 or higher (AW standard rating) working as a professional guide.
Professional Safety Kayaking ability in Class 5 Whitewater
Advanced Medical training (WFA, WFR, EMT)
SRT-1 certificate (preferably from Swiftwater Safety Institute)
Commercial Drivers License (Class B CDL)
Triad pays on a 4 tier wage system paid per trip. Because Washington State requires that all wages are broken down hourly, that is what is presented here. Note that we have very specific regulations regarding how our employees are signed on to trips and how days off are administered; in general, our company believes that all guides have the right to confirm or deny their place on a trip at the time of the trip being offered to them; although we expect our guides to confirm trips at the time of requesting, they have the ultimate right of refusal at this time. Once a guide is confirmed they must run that trip. Conversely, we will not hire you for the day or require you to be available without giving you paid work (this means no morning guide calls for veteran guides who show up and do shop work and then go home unpaid if there are no trips for you). Our reservation and cancellation policies are rigid so that the guides have a reliable scheduling system and thus a dependable wage through their season. Triad understands completely that more experienced guides with a more consistent schedule means better trips, and our scheduling and compensation systems are designed for this purpose.
Triad trips are on average 4 hours apart from each other (if they go over that you'll be paid at the listed hourly rates). There is no food on our day trips so you do not need to factor in any prep, meal times, or sandwich making, etc. Our system is very streamlined, lean, and efficient; it is most likely very different from what you have experienced at other companies so when you do the math on your wages make sure to take this into account. Triad consistently has tier 2-4 guides making well over $1000 per week gross in the middle of the season. Our system is designed to run 3 trips per day; this efficiency of operations allows you 3 opportunities to make a great wage and earn a tip. You can expect a 12 hour work day if you run 3 trips; these can be long and tiring, which is why its critical that you prepare yourself well by studying, training, taking care of your body, and perhaps most importantly; work together and communicate effectively with your team. Triads system is very rough on guides that have lived the “float and bloat” lifestyle where they stay up late at night partying prior to your trip; this lifestyle simply will not work at Triad. We have a deeply rooted philosophy that outfitters should put their best effort towards getting as much work as possible for guides; by working fewer guides more often we cut down on expenses, environmental impact/carbon footprint, and create a staff that is more effective in working together in life threatening situations due to their familiarity with each other and the system. All of our guides are expected to work hard; they can take whatever days off they want, and on those days during the season its definitely wise to rest and/or enjoy yourself, but when its time to work; this is work.
This current pay-scale system correlates roughly to the following hourly wage rates:
Tier 1/rookie: WA state “living wage” (typically slightly higher than minimum wage). Note: 50 hour WA guide certification and First Aid/CPR card required. Note: First year guide/rookie wage.
Tier 2/veteran: $15/hr. Note: at least 3 of the above qualifications required
Tier 3/trip leader: $18.50/hr. Note: at least 4 of the above qualifications required
Tier 4/river manager: $25/hr. Note: River Manager (additional discretionary bonuses as agreed)
Note: We pay fuel expense for any traveling that is done in a personal vehicle in service to Triad River Tours (as agreed to by management). These wages do not include tips, housing, or other fringe benefits of the position (only what we pay you).
Typical real wages per trip/day
*bonus structure in addition to wage
Note: On one trip days guides have the option to do extra work to ensure that they are making a $100 minimum. This is a standard we believe in and work with our guides to sustain. While it is uncommon to work 1 trip days they are available. We do not offer rookies $100 minimums as we want them on the river as much as possible for their own benefit.
2. Preferred Qualifications & Skills Checklist
(assists in moving up from tier 1-2, and required for pay tiers 3-4)
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 Snoqulamie 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.
4. Commercial Drivers License: It’s amazing how much more work you can get as a guide when you have a CDL, in particular when the company you work for uses school buses. Guides with CDLs are more useful and valuable to our team and our company. School buses are the most efficient and economically feasible method for safely transporting our guests. We can carry all of our equipment, rafts, and guests for an entire trip on one school bus. In a lot of ways utilizing retired school buses exemplifies our commitment to environmentalism through efficient use of resources and reduced waste and carbon impact. Buses require less maintenance for our staff, and can carry more people while burning less fuel; its good for the environment and its good for the quality of our trips (which means you get more tips). All of our trips utilize school buses, and in order to drive a school bus in Washington you need to have a Class B CDL. Triad River Tours has a state issued license that allows you to bypass taking any kind of course; all you have to do is pass the written exam (at the DMV just like your original driving test) and a driving exam. We are lucky in that we have professional drivers that work for us, and are willing to coach you along and give you guidance in pursuing your CDL. We require all senior guides to have a CDL, and certain managers at our company will refuse to work with you if you cannot drive. This is a really helpful certificate to get and it just takes a little bit of time and you’ll always have it.
5. Study Materials
Here are links to some great articles that are aligned with the values of our company regarding professional guiding:
3. A Letter to Incoming Veterans
Triad is a home for veteran guides. It’s a highly refined system that has borrowed from the creativity and experience of an amazing staff. Triad is managed by an MBA who believes strongly in a business principle that has guided many employee led companies; in the book “Good to Great” Jim Collins states that you need to have the right people on the bus, and you have to have the people in the right seats. It’s a metaphor that fits in literally with our company; we build our company around people. We do not grow until we have the right people in the right positions. This is something we believe in strongly. If you feel that you have talent and abilities and need to find a home to put them to use and be paid what you are worth, then Triad might be your place. If you have passion for this industry and your own way of doing things, there is space for you here. We thrive on open communication, objectivity, professionalism, and a spirit of dedication and teamwork. If you have succeeded as a guide elsewhere there is likely no need for you to take any guide training in Washington beyond what is necessary to get to know our specific rivers and get to know our crew. If you lack medical training such as WFA/WFR/EMT we can direct you to the nearest location for those trainings. If you lack swiftwater rescue training we would appreciate you getting your certification through one of our courses done collaboratively with the Swiftwater Safety Institute, but even if you miss these dates you can still work for Triad if you have or can gain the proper skills.
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). We pay exceptionally well, and we expect an equally exceptional effort from our guides.
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 email@example.com; 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.
4. Guide Living Arrangements
We are very fortunate as a company to live and work in such an amazing and supportive area. We are a part of the river community and have many friends and resources that we can share with our guides. Notably, some of the guides can help introduce you around and boat with you on days off. Occasionally a spare room is up for rent or a housing opportunity may come available in Bellingham, Darrington, Monroe, Seattle, North Bend, or somewhere in between.; Triad has a property specifically for guides that are working for us during summer, located at a historic site with a caboose on the property, in Marblemount, WA. This spot has camping sites available, an outhouse, and a guide kitchen, and large refrigerator. There are plenty of things to do and you can find food while you’re there. There is no shower but one is available at a nearby RV Park. If you utilize the caboose, the management of Triad requests that you help out with errands that support the team and company throughout your stay.
5. Statement on Equal Opportunity
This institution (Triad River Tours) is an equal opportunity provider. 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.
In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.
To file a complaint of discrimination: write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
6. 2019 Guide Training & Rescue Course Dates
2019 Swiftwater Safety Institute Courses
Packraft SRT w/ SSI: 4/20-21 | Snoqualmie River (lead instructor Zak Sears) | $275
Advanced Level Recertification* w/ SSI: April 23-24 | Snoqualmie or Skykomish (lead Instructor Zak Sears) | $295
SRT-1 w/ SSI: 4/26-28 | Snoqualmie River (lead instructor Zak Sears) | $325
* only available for existing certified SRT-1
2019 Triad River Tours Guide Foundations Course
Cost for program: $200
Dates: May 4-5, 2019
Notes: This course is done collaboratively with the management and lead guides of Triad River Tours and the instructors of SSI, it is highly beneficial for all incoming guides and is required for all first year rookie guides who intend on working for Triad.
2019 River Training Schedule
Cost for program: $400
Notes: Work Trade Internships Available for 50% Tuition Waiver for guides that successfully complete SRT-1 and the Foundations course. 50% of tuition is waived for qualified incoming veterans (just help out) as approved by management.
5/11-5/12 | Sauk, Snoqulamie, or Skykomish River (lead instructor: Brandon Steele)
5/18-5/19 | Snoqualmie or Skykomish Rivers (lead instructor: Brandon Steele)
5/25-26 | Sauk and Skagit Rivers (lead instructor: Luke Baugh)
6/1-6/2| Skykomish River (lead instructor: Brandon Steele)
Call us for more information: 360-510-1243
7. A letter to incoming Rookie Guides
Being a rookie can be daunting; all of the veterans understand that as they were rookies at one time themselves. The first thing to consider as a rookie is that all of your peers want you to succeed; from your managers, to your fellow rookie guides, and your veteran guides. The real problem for them is that the statistics are very clear that most accidents on the river happen to the lesser experienced, and the lesser trained. The veteran guides and the management staff at our company have a legal and ethical obligation to treat rookies with a slight level of speculation. The best thing you can do is focus on gaining these two things 1) experience -and- 2) training. Therefore, the first thing is to introduce yourself professionally just as you would with any job; by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, include your resume and a cover letter or statement of intent (typically less than a page is needed here) that explains who you are and why you want to guide. Guides are typically unique and creative people; tell us what makes you unique and that will help. Recognize that we are in the outdoor hospitality industry and so our primary objective is to guard human life, and our secondary objective is to enhance their lives through their nature experience while they are with us. Because this is such a critically intimate setting, our guests will want to get to know you, and your personality is a big part of who you are, so don’t hide this from us, instead, teach us how to utilize your traits, talents, and uniqueness for the benefit of our team and our company. We will utilize any part of your skill set which assists our team in accomplishing our goal; to facilitate the relationships between human beings and their natural environment.
Once you have sent an email do not hesitate to follow up every week or so with a call or another email; the reason for this is that while a lot of people claim they want to be guides, the reality is that a lot of people do not want it badly enough to endure the training and process to do it. If you can apply yourself, take the position and responsibilities you have as a professional guide seriously, and understand the risks involved and learn your place in mitigating these risks by learning quickly and working hard, then you will undoubtedly fit in with our team. Once you’ve introduced yourself, sign up for our SRT-1 course, and then sign up for guide training. If you have any medical training (even just a first aid/CPR class) send proof of that along with your resume. If you do not have any medical training take a first aid/CPR class, or if you can, take a Wilderness First Aid course. Speak with your advisors and managers about the best process to get this done, and if finances are constrained, do not be afraid to let them know so that they can work with your situation. You can gain experience and training if you really apply yourself in your first year, and there is space in our crew for plenty of new guides. Good luck!
8. 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
Swiftwater Safety Institute
Remote Medical International
Minimum Skills and Knowledge Requirements
Prusik (3 wrap)
Figure 8 (on a bite)
Directional Figure 8
Time vs. Hurrying
River Right, River Left
Laterals and Diagonals
Keeper Holes and Recirculating Holes
Safety Talk (Styles: NRS, Bearpaw, TRT)
River Study (maps, flow charts, protocols)
Stern Mount & Paddle Assist
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”
Pre-existing medical conditions & cardiac arrest
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
Clothing (wetsuit/drysuit etc.)
First Aid Kit
First Aid Kit
Booties (if applicable)
Liability Release Forms
Business and Legal Knowledge
Liability and Insurance
Standard of Care
Duty to Rescue
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)
9. Guide Training Program Overview
Potential Future Guides of Triad River Tours: In addition to our swiftwater rescue and foundational whitewater safety instructional courses, we offer a 50 hour whitewater river guide training curriculum. If the course is completed all graduates of the training will be offered a Guide Training certificate which meets and exceeds all legal requirements set forth in Washington RCW79A.60.430. Each lesson 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 whitewater river guide certification.
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 lesson modules must be completed 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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
10. First Year/Rookie 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)
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
Other Online Guide Training Information