Guide Training Course

– Frequently Asked Questions –

Do I need a car?

No, all transportation to and from the river is part of the program. The lodging that is provided with our Guide Training program is located within walking distance from our bar & restaurant and base camp area. 

Is lodging included?

Yes. Lodging for the 9 days of the class is taken care of and is part of the program. We set aside a few campsites that all the guide trainees are able to set up a tent in for the 9 days.

What are the amenities like?


The campsites do not have electricity or running water. You will have access to a 24hr shower house that is located on site and has electricity, toilets, hot water and showers. There are fire rings in the campsites but they do not have cooking grates.

Our base lodge has a complete bar & restaurant that has a seating capacity of about 90 people. There is a full commercial kitchen that you have access to for preparing your own food. The ability to use that kitchen comes with the notion that you are responsible to clean up after yourself and that you do not make additional work for your fellow teammates.

Can you hold a spot without payment?

No. Our Guide Training program is first come, first serve. Your space in the course will not be confirmed until we receive your deposit payment. After payment is received, we will forward you the course information necessary for you to prepare for Guide Training.

Are Guide Trainees responsible for their own food?

Yes. As mentioned above you are able to use our facilities for breakfast and dinner. You will have the opportunity to eat lunch on the shuttle bus between river runs so plan for quick consumption, high energy foods. It is a good idea to bring extra food, drinks and warm clothing on the bus as the same vehicle stays with us all day.

Do you suggest buying and bringing our own gear to training?

Yes and No. Purchasing your own gear prior to training is a call that you are going to have to make on your own. We will provide the necessary wetsuit, PFD (life jacket), paddle and helmet that you need for training but obviously using your own gear will be a lot more comfortable. The question comes down to how serious you are about this training and being a part of the whitewater community?

Not everyone that starts our program actually finishes it and going out and spending a bunch of money on brand new gear only to use it for a few days and then drop out, seems foolish to me. On the other hand, as a licensed river guide you are responsible to have your own gear; PFD, helmet, paddle, wetsuit, etc. so if you are serious about our team of river professionals then I would most certainly encourage you to have your own gear.

Can you explain the Trade for Train Program?

Our Trade for Train Program is optional and is designed so that someone does not have to cover the entire cost of training up front.  An individual puts a $200 deposit down. This deposit tells us that the individual is serious about the program and plans on showing up. We require the deposit to solidify your spot because our program typically hits its limit of 21 students.

Once an individual enrolled in the Train/Trade program passes the Guide Training course and then passes the State of Maine’s written test, they receive their Maine’s Whitewater Guides License. Once a guides’ license is acquired, the individual can start guiding commercially. By enrolling in the Train/Trade program, the individual agrees that the pay for their first 2 days (runs/trips) of guided work for Three Rivers Whitewater will be put toward the remaining $100 balance from Guide Training. Once the required 2 guided days have been met, you will be eligible to be a paid employee of Three Rivers Whitewater.

I’m nervous because I’m “smaller”, do I have to be a big person?

No. Guide Training is not an easy task, that is for sure and it is very challenging.(I will not sugar coat this) In my 8 years as a river guide I have seen the biggest, most in-shape individuals walk out of the class and quit because they were mentally weak. I have also seen the smallest, “tiny”, little individuals overcome the same boundaries and go on to become some the greatest individuals that I have had the pleasure of meeting. Some of the best River Guides that I know are females that weigh maybe 100lbs soaking wet so don’t cut yourself short on being smaller.

There are two types of strength in this world, physical and mental. In order to make it as a River Guide you are going to have to find your own balance of the two. It has always been my experience that if you show up with the right “can-do, no quit, get-r-done” attitude you will be just fine. Expect and accept that this will be difficult, but trust me it is VERY worth it.

You are going to be surrounded by the best whitewater team in the state of Maine and in my opinion the best in the country. You will be doing training with a team of peers who will be going through the same experience. As a team you will accomplish tasks that are impossible as an individual and I am sure you impress even yourself. Our Guide Training program has been conducted every year for the past 21 years and is taught by a team of guides/trainers who have all gone through the same exact experience.

Guiding has been one of the most rewarding professions in my career and is the reason why I do what I do today!  Don’t be nervous, be excited for a challenge to grow and for an opportunity to become a better person. – Bob Bergeron, River Manager

I have found other River Guide Training courses that are different in length. Does this mean more runs? What is preferred?

I can’t speak on behalf of the other companies that may have longer or shorter courses than ours as I have never been apart of their courses. The length of a course could have to do with a number of different variables such as: location of base (The farther away from the river that ones base is located would potentially limit the number of runs available to do, thus increasing the length of the course) or resources available (the number of guides/ or boats available to be used for training could increase or decrease the length of the program).

Longer training courses do not necessarily mean more runs down the river. Every trainee must complete a minimum of 25 runs of The Kennebec River from Harris Station to Carry Brook of those 25, 5 of them must be guided regardless of the length of the course.

If you are asking which training course is preferred, than I have to say that you are looking at the correct page. Three Rivers Whitewater is known for offering the most detailed, educational and challenging River Guide Training course available in the state of Maine! Obviously my option is one sided as I am an employee of Three Rivers Whitewater but that does not falsify the statement. As a river guide who has been involved in the training program since I received my license in 2010, I can strongly state that we put more time, money and effort into our training program than any one of the other outfitters.

Our course is no joke and it creates the best guides in the business; when others are walking we are running, when some are floating we are paddling. It is this extra effort that creates the strong, powerful and skilled guides that make up our team of whitewater professionals. If you are looking for a course that will push you to create the best you possible, Three Rivers Whitewater is the course for you! -Bob Bergeron, River Manager

Can I guide on The Penobscot River my first year?

Regardless of your prior river experience all new whitewater raft guide candidates must complete the same level of training.  Once the required training on the Kennebec River has been completed you may be eligible to continue to Level 2 training.  This is strictly dependent on performance and proficiency in Level 1 training.  The majority of guides wait until their second year to think about training Level 2 on the Penobscot River.  It’s probably best to wait and see how the first class goes and go from there.

If I pass the River Guide Training, does that mean I get a job?

Once a person passes the guide training course and the written test necessary to obtain a guides license, they are put on our guide roster. Now there is no guaranteeing on how much work one can expect to make a river guide. As there is a natural curve to any business, there is a busy and a slow time for us in the rafting industry. We put the best trip on the water everyday. So respectfully the fifth year guide who has been loyal to the company and a good team member will get the river work before a first year guide (no offense). This creates what we like to call a “seasonal” work schedule, meaning that in the slower times (May-June, October) work can be limited and varied; as a lot of teammates work in multiple departments within the company and in the busy season (July-August) work gets more consistent as we get busier. You can find more information about other employment opportunities at Three Rivers Job Openings.

How much work can I expect as a river guide?

As a new river guide there is no guarantee how much work you will get. Our season starts in May and ends in October. As we start to get busier towards the end of June and into July until Labor Day, we’ll likely be running trips 7 days a week. Staff that works the hardest and have the best attitudes typically will get on the guide schedule the most.

What does a typical work week look like?

A typical work week varies heavily on the time of year and whether or not you have made any other commitments to another department here at Three Rivers Whitewater. Generally speaking, Part-Time employees should expect anywhere from 15-25 hours per week and Full-time employees are most likely in the 35-45 hour/week range. Being that we are in the commercial recreation field, we work when our guests are not, this means weekends. Days off are typically mid week and we do our best to try and put them back to back whenever possible. Days or nights really depend on the position. For example if you were hired as a full time breakfast cook at Inn By the River obviously it’s going to be morning/afternoon shifts, the campground & maintenance team works days where as restaurant staff typically work evenings/nights. For a detailed list of current job positions available for the 2018 season or to submit an employment application go to Three Rivers Job Openings.

Where do guides live once they have made it through training?

Most of our Guides live on-site in the campground located across from the street of our base lodge in The Forks. We have designated an area for staff housing where individuals can set up a tent for the season. They are welcome to build platforms and/or customize the area as much as they’d like. We extend this camping option to all of our staff and it comes with use of the shower house and bathroom facility located on-site. This lodging option costs just $10 per week and is used to help pay the heat, hot water and electricity bills of the shower house facilities as well as maintenance of the campground roads and property. We have set it up so that this lodging fee is automatically deducted from your paycheck to make it as easy as possible.

If camping is not quite your thing, there are other lodging options available. There are some apartments in town that are available to rent for the summer months and we would be happy to get you more information and put you in contact with the proper people if you’d like. On average those apartments range from $200-$250 per month/ per person.

I am a guide on other rivers and want to come to Maine. Do I need to take Guide Training?

Yes. Maine law states that all whitewater guides must pass a series of 2 test (one on river exam; which is conducted through our Guide Training program, and one written exam which is administered by the state) in order to commercially guide in the state; regardless of past river experience. This regulation ensures that all Maine Whitewater Guides have the same knowledge necessary to remain safe and legal on the river.