Maine Whitewater Rafting Guide Training Program

What It Takes to Become a Registered Maine Whitewater Rafting Guide… (I don’t have it.)

By: Steph Dunn

I’m not sure how I ended up staring at the ceiling of a cabin tent in the woods, a fellow raft guide trainee three feet away doing the same, the Kennebec River flowing beside us. Our wetsuits, fleece jackets, wool hats, booties and gloves were ready to roll for the next day’s many rafting trips down the cold river. If only we could sleep… it was 11:00pm, hours past my usual bedtime. We had been blowing up rafts, practicing paddle strokes, and learning guide commands all evening. This was Northern Outdoors Guide Training Program, which veteran raft guides told me I would love, that it would be one of the greatest experiences in my life. I’ll spare you the suspense, I lasted 24 hours.

Whitewater Rafting Guide Training

Seven days, filled to the brim with rafting trips, geography lessons, safety training, barely enough time to shower and eat. Trainee and now Registered Maine Whitewater Rafting Guide Cameron described it well at the end of the week:

“We’ve woken up early, flipped rafts, taken long swims, ping ponged down high flowing water, blown up about 200 rafts, hiked up 3,000 stairs, to come out as competent raft guides… I’m really stoked to come back in a few weeks to spend the summer floating these Maine rapids.”

That first day, my only day, air temps peaked at 55 degrees, water temps somewhere slightly above ice cubes. We were happy to run up the stairs at Carry Brook between our rafting trips down the Kennebec River Gorge to get some blood to our numb feet. Adrenaline kept us warm in the rapids as trainees took their first shot at guiding the rafts (some impressive paddle strokes from the trainees in my raft, thankfully.)

Rafting the Kennebec, Maine Guide Training

Because Northern, whose minimum guide age is 21, combines guide training with Adventure Bound, a rafting outfit focused on youth groups, the trainees ranged in age from 18 to well, my 42 would be the oldest. Removing this old guide school dropout from the equation, I’d guess the average trainee age was 22. By the time we were floating all the rafts from Carry Brook to the take out, I was uncontrollably shivering and grumpy, done with rafting and camping, no longer caring whether Bone Crusher was on river left or river right, ready to snuggle up with my dogs at home. The surviving trainees were also shivering but still pumped, still talking about their successful runs through Magic Falls, identifying backboard locations, naming streams along the river…

Even on day one there was no question that they had what it takes to become hardy, skilled Maine Whitewater Rafting Guides.

Congrats to the Maine Whitewater Rafting Guide Class of 2017!

Maine Whitewater Rafting Guide Class of 2017

I’ll see you for Level II whitewater training on the Penobscot River… where I’m hoping to keep up for another whole 24 hours!


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