Before You Grow Up: Be a Raft Guide

There are only a few carefree summers in your life. Don’t waste them interning at law firms—opt for one of these adventure-packed seasonal gigs instead.

(Photo: Justin Bailie)
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Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.

What’s not to love? You get paid to float a river, and vacation days offer climbing, hiking, kayaking, and mountain biking. Guides typically live in unsupervised, bacchanalian tent colonies, so there’s a strong sense of community—and few expenses.

Prereqs: A positive, out-going attitude, especially when the river’s low. “The water isn’t always going to do the talking for you,” says Duke Bradford, director of Colorado’s Arkansas Valley Adventures. “You’re working for tips.” You also need to be able to cook for campers and clean up the kitchen. And that’s about it. “We believe we can teach a monkey how to raft,” says Bradford.

How to Break In: Some companies require you to complete a $300 to $600 guide school. Others, like West Virginia’s Adventures on the Gorge, will train college kids for free. Most states mandate a minimum age of 18, and first-year guides are often confined to Class II–III runs.

Pay: Between $2,000 and $5,000 for a season.

Romance Potential: High. Raft trips usually have awesome campfire parties, and clients are often drawn to guides who heroically deliver them through dangerous whitewater.

Résumé Skills: Public speaking, lifesaving.

Filed To: Water Activities
Lead Photo: Justin Bailie