Whitewater River Guide Training and Certification Seattle
Potential Future Guides of Triad River Tours: We offer a 3 module, 50 hour whitewater river 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 whitewater river 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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: In Idaho, 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).
Upcoming Protocol/Scouting Runs
- Snoqualmie in Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest: April 6-13
- Elwha in Olympic National Park: TBD
- Big Water Blowout/Lochsa (Idaho big water trip): June 1-4
note: these are open to staff and trainees only
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:
- WA state “living wage”. Note: 50 hour WA guide certification and First Aid/CPR card required
- $15/hr. Note: at least 2 of the above 4 criteria required
- $18.50/hr. Note: at least 3 of the above 4 criteria required
- $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.
Real wages per trip/day
*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.
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 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.
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)
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
Other Online Guide Training Information