White Water Guide Training

Join the Northern Outdoors Team of Maine White Water Rafting Guides

Sunday, May 23rd to Sunday, May 30th

Northern Outdoors Guide School.  It’s both exhausting and exhilarating, terrifying and empowering. Each spring, Northern Outdoors trains as many as fifteen men and women seeking to join our staff of highly skilled river guides. The vast majority of these trainees go on to become successfully licensed Maine White Water Guides employed by our company. Besides being the ticket to a great career, guide training is an incredibly fun and rewarding experience toward a time honored profession!  Our guests deserve and demand the very best, professional, and fun trips through Maine’s wilderness, and it is our goal to provide this.


Each year we anticipate having a few open seasonal positions as both full-time and part-time raft guides. Full time employees typically start soon after training and work through Labor Day weekend and beyond. Part-time work can consist of weekday and/or weekend employment and is very flexible during the months of May through October. Entry level guides will earn about $96 per day to start, with gratuity from satisfied guests commonplace. There are many jobs available in other departments to supplement income as well. Our rafting season runs from May to October, although we are flexible with start/end dates.

Who Should Apply to be a Raft Guide?


Our guides come from all walks of life. Some are recent college graduates or are finishing up their degree, others are life-long river guides. Many have found ways to make a living in the off season so that they are able to guide rafts each summer. These include teachers, ski industry employees, and other seasonal workers. Still others work in professions that have more flexible shifts, such as firefighters, nurses, and other health professionals. The most important underlying factor contributing to your success as a raft guide at Northern Outdoors is that you are passionate about the outdoors and have a desire to share that with others. In addition, safety is a number one priority at Northern Outdoors. You should always be looking out for yourself, your guests, and your co workers on and off the river. If this sounds like you, please read through the information below and complete the online application at the bottom of the page.

The Whitewater Guide School


Whitewater Guide School is a 7 day training on the Kennebec River which runs in May and will cover necessary information for a Level I whitewater license (required for both part-time and full-time guides). The training class will also spend 6 days, at a later date on the Penobscot River, for a Level II license (required for full-time guides and is part-time guide optional). At the end of the training program in May, you will have the knowledge to apply for a Maine State Whitewater Guide’s license ($100 app fee) and an opportunity to test for it soon after ($89 license fee, good for 3 years). Northern Outdoors provides the setting for test taking, but makes no guarantee of licensing, although most participants should pass. We also cannot guarantee employment, although most guides are offered work with Northern Outdoors.


The May 2021 Kennebec training (for a Level I license) will start at 5:30 PM on Sunday, May 23rd and end the evening of Sunday, May 30th. The Penobscot training (for a Level II license) will begin at 11:00 AM on Sunday, June 20th and end late afternoon Friday, June 25th. Daylight hours will be spent on the river and evenings will involve review. Since we try to run the rivers as often as possible during the course of the program, all participants should expect and be prepared for very fast moving and rigorous days.


All applicants for a Maine State Whitewater Guide’s License must have a minimum certification of Basic First Aid and Adult CPR. We can offer a class if necessary during the training week, however we highly recommend that you get your certifications prior to the guide training by attending classes at your local Red Cross or equivalent in your area.


What We Expect From You


  1. A well-groomed and neat appearance.
  2. A friendly, cheerful personality.
  3. A reasonable amount of athletic ability and good health.
  4. The willingness to work with other people in a team environment and to follow safety policy and company procedures.
  5. No illegal drugs are allowed. The job requires a lot of responsibilities and hard work. Anyone caught doing illegal drugs will be dismissed immediately.
  6. You must be at least 21 years old.


What can you expect from Northern Outdoors?


Northern Outdoors is the pioneer of the entire rafting industry and is the largest whitewater outfitter in the northeast. The staff who run our school have more commercial runs on all of Maine’s big rivers than any other outfitter, hands down. As the outfitters who started it all, we have experience and the knowledge to train you best!


Our raft inventory is extensive enough to enable us to put students down the river over and over again on the same day. This allows each student to get more experience in a few days than you could get in a week with only a few rafts. It is not unusual for a trainee to run the Kennebec Gorge or the Cribwork rapids ten times in a day. We take a great deal of pride in our professional ability and spare no expense in our effort to train you. We supply all equipment and aids; you need only bring yourself, a ‘can do’ attitude, and a desire to be part of a winning team!

If you are ready for the challenge


The fee for the 2021 Guide School is $200 ($280 if you need first aid/ cpr). The cost of the program includes the use of all necessary equipment, use of a wetsuit, all necessary books and handouts, and instruction by professional guides with years of training experience. Cabin tent housing, as well as a bag lunch is provided throughout the training program. No other meals are provided. There is a restaurant at our base and you will receive a 25% discount, or you may cook on outside fires at your tent site.


If you are interested in applying for a position in the training program, please fill out the online application completely and return, along with your resume. Allow us a couple of days to receive your application, then call or email zdavis@northernoutdoors.com to arrange an interview. The number of participants in the program is limited and no applicants are accepted without an interview.

Apply Now


The deadline for receiving applications for both training classes is April 15th, 2021. If accepted into the program, a $100 deposit is required within 7 days. The rest of the balance is due upon arrival. Once the program has been filled, no further applications will be accepted. Northern Outdoors reserves the right to accept or reject any applications.


Every applicant should realize that they will be pushed to the limit, and that training will be done under conditions that greatly exceed actual guiding practices. While the course is very demanding and exhausting, it is also very exciting and incredibly fun! You will remember the experience, and the people who took part in it with you, for many years to come!