Nenana Raft Adventures

Raft Guides

The Nenana River at Denali National Park is ground zero for guiding commercial whitewater in Alaska.  More river guides work on the Nenana River than any other whitewater river in Alaska. At Nenana Raft Adventures, we place an especially high value on the skill set necessary to rig, launch and operate Oar-Rafts because most of our guests take their trips in oar rafts.

Howeverall Guides with previous commercial raft guiding experience, even if it is all paddle- rafting experience, are definitely encouraged to apply. Every season we hire River Guides who only have previous commercial raft-guiding experience running paddle raft trips. We’ve been teaching them to operate Oar-Rafts for decades. We call it “River School.” They do just fine and quickly pick up the requisite skills. With these individuals, our instructional curriculum emphasizes development of rowing-related muscle memory as well as learning the individual rapids and features of the Nenana River.  Also, we need paddle guides because we take thousands of people paddle rafting every summer.

If you have worked in outdoor leadership jobs like ski patrol, youth challenge expeditions, canoeing/sea kayaking trip leaders or college/university rec programs, we definitely want to hear from you. We have excellent instructional programs---"River School”--- for individuals who want to work as river guides, have a strong outdoor leadership background, and are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to build up a good skill set. With these individuals, our instructional curriculum first emphasizes fundamental boat handling skills development and repair and maintenance of raft equipment. As individuals accumulate river mileage and build up their River Trip Log Books, they develop rowing-related muscle memory and learn the individual rapids and features of the Nenana River. We have warehouse/repair tech, facility repair and light mechanic’s assistant job shifts available for these individuals. Working shifts in these positions (on a part-time basis) allows you to begin employment in a logistics support role and finish “River School” in a timely manner. This provides individuals who want to become raft guides with income-generating employment while they are building up the River Trip Log requirements necessary to work in that capacity. Nobody starves on our watch!

River guides must have certifications in basic First Aid and CPR as a condition of hire.  These certifications must remain valid/unexpired for the entire period of employment. Guides with certifications such as Wilderness First Responder or other advanced First Aid certifications (40-hour classroom and practicum) are paid higher wages at entry than those without.

We prefer that guide applicants have some type of formal Swiftwater river rescue training.  Although SRT certifications are not a condition of hire, River Guides with valid certifications as Swiftwater Rescue Technicians (SRT) are paid higher wages at entry than those without. Nenana Raft's annual SRT instruction and certification program is taught by a Rescue 3 instructor. All successful participant/applicants receive a certificate signed by Nenana Raft's SRT instructor attesting to their successful completion of the course's requirements. Certifications are good for 2 years.

In-house applicants participating in the pre-season SRT class have options for substantial course tuition discounts and deferrals. Standard cost for most 3-day Swiftwater Rescue courses is $450.00. Applicants opting to participate in our annual class get a 2/3 deferral ($300.00) off that tuition. Applicants and staff receiving this tuition deferral sign a written agreement to complete a full season of work in return for the deferral. For guides who complete the entire summer, the tuition cost is reduced to $150.00, and even that $150.00 does not have to be paid upfront. It can be deducted from wages in mid-summer.  The upfront cost is effectively zero. In terms of cost, we try to make SRT training as affordable as possible. In the event of early job termination, the remaining SRT class tuition is deducted from the final paycheck. All participants have the option of participating in our class on a full-tuition basis as a member of the general public.

Raft operation, river navigation and general river skills proficiency must be demonstrated on-water and evaluated by senior staff. Think “Check-ride.”

River Log requirements must also be met as a condition of hire.

“River School” costs $50.00 - $100.00, and provides Guide-applicants the housing, equipment and instructional opportunities necessary to run the 20-30 river trips needed to build up their logbooks while learning the individual rapids, hazards and features of the Nenana River.

For Guide-applicants with previous commercial raft-guiding experience, the cost is $50.00  
For Guide-applicants without previous commercial experience “River School” is $100.00 

Clearly, we’re not looking to make a profit here. The purpose is to make raft equipment and housing available at rock-bottom cost so that Guide-applicants can meet the River Trip Log-book requirements---which are a condition of hire--- at the lowest possible cost. The tuition essentially covers the cost of equipment loss, housing, fuel and raft/van/trailer transportation between launch points.  Similar “guide schools” in the lower 48 charge about 5 or 10 times what we do.

Typical river guide duties:

  • Guide guests down the Nenana Gorge (Class III & IV) and Upper Nenana Wilderness (Class II & III) sections of the Nenana River. Manage risks in a polite and professional manner.
  • Personally assist and fit guests with footwear, helmets, drysuits and PFDs. Provide personalized and individual assistance to each guest, assisting them with dressing into this gear at launch points and out of this gear at take-outs.
  • Conduct safety briefings and river orientation talks for guests about to embark on a raft trip.
  • Rig rafts with appropriate gear for the trip type.
  • Converse with guests about the climate, natural history, wildlife, geology, and plants of the Denali area.
  • Actively promote the sale of T-shirts, photos, and other types of raft trip souvenirs and accessories.
  • Treat all guests with courtesy, remembering whose vacation it is.
  • Maintain friendly, professional attitude towards guests and coworkers.
  • Observe and comply with tobacco-free workplace requirement. 
  • Assist in the maintenance and repair of equipment, e.g, wash river booties, repair rafts, gaskets on drysuits.
  • Lift and stack heavy rafts onto trailers; secure rafts to trailers, unload and launch rafts.
  • Safely drive crew vans pulling trailers loaded with rafts. Properly inspect and secure all cargo prior to departure. 
  • Frequently check and help maintain a raft trip scheduling board.
  • Be a team player. Display good judgment. Be dependable, punctual, willing to abide by Nenana Raft’s criteria for employment.
  • Be willing to assist management with the repair and maintenance of all physical facilities.
  • Other duties as assigned.

River guiding is not your typical 9-5 job. But it is a very rewarding profession

New raft guides can earn $8-10,000  a summer season, with experienced guides earning more.

We can be reached toll free at 800-789-RAFT (7238)  Call us if you have any questions.  We’re happy to answer them.

Thanks again for reading this. See you on the River!

Experience the thrill of rafting Denali with Nenana Raft Adventures

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