Join the Echo Canyon Guide Team

Experienced Raft Guides

It's not just a summer job, it's a career

Outdoor professionals wanted

You’ve got the experience. We do as well. Let’s see if Echo is a good fit for your new summer home to work and play! Echo Canyon River Expeditions has been in the business since 1978, and since then we haven’t stopped honing our skills and making each summer just a little better than the last as a working environment, a place to play after hours, and to develop bonds with other awesome staff who recognize it’s not just a summer job. It’s a way of life. As fellow outdoor professionals, we get it. And we’re always looking for like-minded individuals who want to be part of the team here at Echo Canyon.

Echo Canyon guides pose for a photo on a company trip in the Royal Gorge

How to Apply - The Quick & Dirty

We need from you:

You can email the first few items to our Operations Manager We’ll be in touch after that!

What about the perks?

While your level of trip pay is obviously important, we all know there are so many other factors that go into a positive working environment. Here at Echo we strive to make it a place you’ll not just love, but a place you’ll love to come back to next year… and the year after that, and so on.

At Echo Canyon we spend the time vetting our guides to ensure we’re bringing in hard-working pros who are passionate about guiding guests on the river. Sure, we also train new, inexperienced guides, too. Those guides go through the most extensive training program in the state of Colorado. They won’t be on the river with guests until at least 5 weeks after beginning their training. So you can rely on your Guide peers to know what they’re doing, to have your back just as you have theirs.

Our Guides are paid by the trip, and we have a number of tiers with different pay rates. But you’ll never start at the bottom of the pay scale if you come in with experience under your belt. When you chat with us by phone tell us more about your guiding background and we’ll use that info to pay you at a pay tier commensurate with your experience.

There’s also opportunity for guides to make extra money driving shuttles, working on equipment, and doing other work outside of guiding. This pay starts at $13.65 per hour for the 2023 rafting season. Higher levels of pay are possible for those with more specialized experience who put those skills to use for the company.

At some point in your career, you may stop Guiding rafts; but hopefully you never stop floating rivers! It’s never too early to start investing in retirement down the road. So we offer all staff the ability and assistance in setting up an employer matching IRA. We make it super easy for you to start saving for your future.

Ask any of our guides and they’ll tell you one of the main reasons they come back year after year is the on-site camping available. Living with the friends you work with makes for a summer of fun and creates some super tight bonds. It’s a 100 yard commute to work – which is pretty awesome. Our guides living on-property have 24/7 access to bathrooms with flush toilets, showers, power banks to charge devices, WiFi, and potable water. And we make it super cheap; just $350 for the entire summer.

One of the beauties of living and working at Echo is the proximity to so many outdoor activities, and the number of your co-workers/friends who you can enjoy the activities with after work. Within 5 miles of where you camp is an incredible mountain biking and hiking trail network – the Royal Gorge Park Trail system containing 22 miles of trails. Or, check out the South Canyon Trails or Oil Well Flats – all within 15-20 minutes of camp. World-class climbing can be found 30 minutes away at Shelf Road just north of Cañon City. Colorado boasts more than 50 14ers – mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation to hike and summit. The Arkansas River is a gold medal fishery with 102 miles boasting this designation, so fishing is always an option. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t do a little bragging about the incredible whitewater just minutes from the Echo camp. So you won’t have any trouble finding fun things to do after work or on days off.

Our guides can’t get enough whitewater, or so it seems. So we make available Echo Canyon rafts, paddles, pumps, even a trailer to make after-hours play trips and day-off explorations easier. Our guides routinely paddle the Royal Gorge after-hours or explore other rivers throughout the state, and we’re thrilled to encourage more river exploration!

We routinely schedule a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) class just before the season gets started to make it easier for guides to attain and maintain elevated med certs. These classes usually take place on-site to to make it easy for our staff. We also have a few guides who are Swiftwater Rescue Instructors, so you’ll probably have access to take a discounted course while you’re here.

And you’ll never pay the regular rates for these classes – we always subsidize them to help you grow your skills.

Once hired all of our guides are eligible to get in on pro deals or discounts on river gear and other outdoor gear. You’ll be able to order gear year-around once hired. 

More than just guiding

The annual Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival in Cañon City is a favorite summer festival for a number of our guides. Echo routinely pays entry fees for our guides to enter the raft rodeo, downriver race, and other events, and our guides have racked up quite a few wins!

Application FAQs

While we work hard and play even harder here at Echo, we realize we aren’t always the place for every experienced guide looking for a new seasonal home. It’s all about the right fit. Check out the FAQs below for common questions and answers to what applying guides usually want to hear more about.

We employ guides who are passionate not just about the river and the outdoors, but who also want to share the river experience with guests. We’re also looking for professionals – Guides who want to be part of a team that are looked up to on the river. We endeavor to maintain a professional and skilled on-river presence; we follow the unwritten river etiquette, we assist where needed, we mentor up-and-coming guides to further their skills, and we keep our cool even in stressful situations.

We hire a lot of college students, grad students, and those who are passionate about working in the outdoors as a career choice. The average age of our current guide staff is 20-25 years of age. We have a handful of guides around 18 years of age, a lot who have graduated college and are doing this for a number of years, and some guides in their 30s or even 40s who have done this for a while and plan to continue doing so. Our gender breakdown is fairly even split between the sexes, and we have guides from soooo many backgrounds. We have about 50 full time guides working each summer. Read all of their stories on our staff bio page.

Staff is able to live on the company’s designated property for a flat $350 a season; payment is due the third week of July. Guides have 24 hour access to bathrooms with flush toilets, sinks, and showers. You’d have access to a charging bay area to keep your devices juiced up, access to drinking water, and WiFi. It’s fairly tight camping, but it’s cheap. We see a lot of guides cooking together and even setting up shared outdoor kitchens and shade structures to hang out. There’s a communal fire pit where guides gather routinely as well. Most guides say after-hours is some of the best times of the summer!

We love dogs, but no. Pets are not allowed on company property or in the staff camping area – it’s just too hot here making it a less than ideal location for pets, especially when we’re all on the river at the same time during the hottest part of the day. And if we allowed dogs there would be a pack of 30 dogs roaming the guide area and where the guests check-in. There would be problems.

Echo Canyon runs primarily half day and full day raft trips. Half days are by far the most common. If you’re guiding our full day trips all of the food is prepared by our food & beverage department in our commercial kitchen. So you won’t need to shop, prep, or clean up after full day lunches – which makes it a pretty easy day. This also allows more time after work for private river trips, kayaking, mountain biking, climbing, or whatever.

We do also run a handful of 2 to 3 day multi-day river trips here on the Arkansas River. Our multi-days typically combine a few different river sections and we camp in vehicle accessible camp areas, so we very rarely run any gear rafts. 

Well, let’s say you must have whitewater guiding experience – not just experience canoeing the Loop River in Nebraska, if you know what we mean. One season of experience on a river that offers commercial whitewater trips is often enough to come in as an experienced guide. We routinely see guides join us who have paddle boat experience but not oar boat experience, and that’s fine. So long as you have the basics down, we’ll have you jump on some training boats (yes, with guide trainees who are learning from no experience) to get your skills down on oar boats. We generally find that if you’re an experienced guide, you’ve develop the muscle memory and ability to be competent on oar boats in a short amount of time. You won’t be charged for the training unless, you know, your only guide experience was on the Loop River or somewhere similar!

Also, every guide is different. So we’ll have you chat with our Operations Manager who will learn more about your experience and give you an honest guess as to where you’ll fall into our experienced guide staff.

The state of Colorado requires river guides must be at least 18 years of age and be certified in Basic First Aid and CPR. Echo Canyon requires all of our Trip Leaders and class IV guides (which you will definitely want to be) to have a minimum of Wilderness Advanced First Aid and CPR, and these classes have to have an in-person component. No online courses allowed. 

We usually set up a Wilderness First Responder or Wilderness Advanced First Class to take place here at Echo in mid to late May. Newly hired guides are welcome to sign up and you would receive the same subsidized price as our returning guide staff. Ask us about this when interviewing if you’re interested in getting in on this class.

No, you don’t need the formal certification to be hired, but if you don’t have it we’ll require to join our guide trainees for a few classes and on-river scenarios to cover the basics of a swiftwater class that we feel are absolutely necessary for any guide. Again, there’s no charge for this training. It doesn’t come with a formal certification, but it’s typically swiftwater certified instructors who teach it and it’s some pretty darn good skills you’ll learn!

Besides the obvious guiding skills, we’re searching for hard-working, reliable, guest service-minded individuals. It’s not enough to love boating rivers. You must love to share that love with your guests. So guest service is high on the list of must-have skills for all of our staff. 

And ideally you’re passionate about multiple topics to aid in the interpretive aspect of guiding. Maybe you enjoy learning about what fish are in the river, what four-legged critters roam the hillsides, or how to tell the difference between an eagle and a turkey vulture. We’re looking for interests that can enrich the rafting experience for you, your guests, and your co-workers. As guides, we learn so much from each other, so hopefully you can bring a skill that you can share with your fellow guides.

Good question. Salty, closed-minded guides need not apply. Here at Echo Canyon we’ve developed an incredible team of individuals with so many different backgrounds and experiences and who bring so much to the table. If you’re not a team player then we aren’t for you. We’re stronger as a team and any guide with experience knows you can’t always do it by yourself. If you need somewhere to stroke your ego then keep looking. Even a 20-year raft guide can still learn new skills, so we remain open to constructive criticism around here to further our skills. We also don’t tolerate sexist, racist individuals or other forms of bigotry or discrimination.

Drugs and/or alcohol are not allowed prior to or while performing company duties. Smoking and/or chewing is not allowed in front of guests or while working an Echo Canyon trip. We are professionals guiding guests on whitewater rapids where anything could happen, so you MUST be at your best and free of any and all substances while working.

All new guides are required to pass a drug screen prior to employment. We test for all drugs that are not legal for recreational use in Colorado.

Does it pay the bills?

Expense and pay breakdown



Staff camping - entire summer


Refundable camp deposit


Cost to complete additional training


$55 to $80 per half day trip

$55 is what 1st year guides are paid. Generally, guides can expect $5 per trip per year raise so long as they complete a full season.

$110 o $160 per full day trip

Lunch is provided, and you don't have to prepare it or clean up after it.

$13.65 per hour

Additional hourly pay opportunities available in addition to trip pay.

$5,000 to $14,000 pay per season

First-year raft guides routinely earn $4000 or more in wages in an average year. Second-year guides routinely earn around $5000 to $6000 plus tips, and senior guides who have been around a bit routinely earn $9,000 to $11,000 for a summer season. Our most senior guides who do a fair amount of guide training can earn $11,000 to $14,000 or more.


Guide tips vary but $40-$50 per half trip is about the average. We mention tips to our guests in multiple places to remind them of taking care of their guide. When we book corporate groups generous gratuities are included on reservations to reward our hard-working guide staff.

3% Employer matching IRA

Currently you can opt into investing a percentage of your pay to an IRA we'll help you set up. Echo matches up to 3%.