California & American River Whitewater Rafting Guide Schools


WHEN: 2 sessions for 2021!

Monday May 3 – Sunday May 9, 2021

Monday June 7 – Sunday June 13, 2021

COST: $500 for our 7 day California Rafting Guide School on the American River and other available Northern California runs. 

LOCATION: This whitewater rafting guide school will primarily take place on the South Fork of the American River in Lotus, CA. This river offers an exceptional learning experience with 21 miles of class 2-3+ whitewater to navigate. Participants will also normally have the opportunity for some Class 4 action. This may include the North Fork Yuba RiverNorth Fork American River or East Carson River if the rafting flows are adequate which will depend on the snow melt.

This River Guide School is ideal for college students or winter recreation workers interested in summer employment. However, it is also open to those who would like to learn the skills, but are not seeking employment as a river guide. Participants must be at least 18 years to be eligible for employment, but youths from 16 years may participate with parental permission.

We are looking for people who are safety conscious, team oriented, hard working, responsible, personable, fit, environmentally conscious, and ready for challenges! Rafting instruction is in paddle boats. If you are interested in the skills needed for oar boats or inflatable kayaks, let us know. Completion of our guide school does not guarantee employment, but students should be adequately prepared to apply for summer jobs with Tributary Whitewater Tours or any other river rafting outfitter.

Certification in First-Aid and CPR are not included, in order to maximize on-river time during the guide school. These certificates are are not required to participate in the school but are mandatory certificates required for commercial California river rafting guides. We highly recommend obtaining these certifications prior to the guide school.

Whitewater Rafting Guide School Emphasis:

  • River hydrology
  • River navigation
  • Reading whitewater
  • Raft equipment rigging
  • Equipment maintenance and repair
  • Personal rescue equipment & signals
  • Commercial safety put-in talks
  • Camp/kitchen operations
  • Knot tying
  • Leading safe, enjoyable whitewater rafting trips

Included in the cost of Raft Guide School:

  • Transportation to and from camp to the instruction location
  • PFD (although most like to purchase a guide PFD prior to guide school as these allow for more mobility than our customer PFDs).
  • Helmet
  • On river equipment (ie: raft, paddle, ropes etc…)
  • Camping space & river use fees
  • Lunch everyday

We strive to create a fun healthy atmosphere for a genuine learning experience with our senior river guides.


Whitewater Guide School Equipment/What to Bring:

Rafting students will be responsible for providing the following personal gear:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Wetsuit (at least 2mm: can be rented for $10/day from Tributary) or a Drysuit (about $15-$35/day from the River Store)
  • Fleece or wool clothes (avoid cotton)
  • River shoes – must strap or lace onto the feet and toe covering is recommended.

Also see our full What to Bring list for clients.

California Whitewater Rafting Swift-water Rescue Workshop (add-on):

Basic river rescue is covered during the California rafting guide school, which is adequate for first year California raft guides. However, Swiftwater Rescue certification is recommended for continuing guides and trip leaders. We will attempt to offer this additional workshop to all employees during the early part of the rafting season. It will focus on a full range of whitewater emergency and rescue procedures not limited to but, including:

  • Unwrapping rafts
  • Flipped-raft drills
  • Use of flip lines, and throw bags
  • Swimming in rapids and in and out of eddies
  • Foot-entrapment rescue
  • Swift-water crossings
  • Line-crossing options
  • Z-pulley and piggyback tension systems
  • Hypothermia prevention and treatment

A Certified instructor will lead this workshop – it is not included in the guide school. Upon completion students will have a manual and a nationally recognized certificate to add to their resume.