Visit Colorado: I’m a Whitewater Raft Guide!

I’ve logged maybe 50 river miles to date, if miles count for the girl without oars or a paddle; the girl who sits on the front of the raft with a beer, working on her tan. I’m the girl who ensures the beer cooler stays full and cold, the one who makes note that it’s strapped on in an easily accessible manner. Pulling over to shore each time a member of the crew is empty would surely put a damper in the adventure.

My experience with rafting consists of several trips down the lazy John Day river in Oregon (a yearly, overnight adventure complete with guitars and pancakes), and a wild and scenic adventure on the Snake River in Hell’s Canyon last summer. That adventure was a three-day trip with four boats, two people on each, and more gear (and beer coolers) than necessary. My boat was manned by a rookie and myself, so the Class IV rapids were extra fun, considering the life threatening circumstances of sending two know-nothings down a river with holes large enough to sink much larger boats. We came out alive, sober and well, of course, with nice tans.

Hells Canyon

The float down Hell’s Canyon. Trust me, it wasn’t this lazy for long…

But all that’s about to change.

I’ve signed up to take a raft guide training course with A1 Wildwater in Fort Collins, where I live and study now. Assuming I don’t completely f*** up between my one week of study and logging the 50 river hours required by the state of Colorado to be a guide, I’ll have a job when I finish. This means the cooler will have to stay behind, for the clients on the boat are trusting me not to flip it over, or to wrap it around a bridge or a rock (if I do that I’m probably out of a job, and a tip). I’m still hoping to get a tan out of the deal, but I’ll be rafting down the Cache la Poudre in the scenic Poudre Canyon, where the water is straight snow melt, so the wet suit I plan to wear might ruin that idea completely.

visit colorado rafting in Colorado

Rafting the Poudre River. This photo and featured photo courtesy of A1 Wildwater.

Not only will I need to learn how to read the water and to pack and unpack boats and equipment, but I’ll need to become certified in first aid and CPR, just in case. We do only half-day and one-day trips, so I’m hoping not to need these life saving skills, but it’s always good to be prepared. And since the Rockies had quite a bit of snow last winter (and are continuing to get it), the river will be flowing quite rapidly. But I’m up for the challenge. In fact, I’m really looking forward to it. Plus, if I do crash the boat, I promise to still be the girl who knows where the beer is at the end of the day.

So, who’s on board (after I learn how NOT to flip the boat)? Come visit Colorado!

*Disclosure: I received free guide training with A1 Wildwater in return for all posts with a link to them, but all ideas and words are my own.




  1. Jayla Rae says:

    I'm so down to raft it up with you, girlfran!

  2. That’s awesome! I’m sure you’ll do well and start NOT flipping rafts in no time! If I’m ever in Colorado I’ll have to look ya up.

  3. Frank says:

    Good luck Jessica! Should be fun. Count on a farmer’s tan though with the lifejackets!
    Frank (bbqboy)

  4. Jennifer says:

    That’s awesome! We’ve not actually been white water rafting yet, though it’s something that has been on our list to go do for years.

    • jessicajhill says:

      You definitely should! It’s a lot more fun to do it just for an adventure than it is to guide, I’ve learned. But whitewater rafting seems to be one of those things you can do almost anywhere in the world. I recently read about an awesome adventure in Costa Rica, and now I’m dying to go! I hope you try it out soon.

  5. Ryan says:

    wow looks beautiful there and looks like so much fun! I love white water rafting and always looking for another place to go! Thanks for sharing!

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