What Makes a Good Whitewater River Guide?

Whitewater rafting trips are often enhanced by great river guides. River guides are often quite adept at handling the rapids on their rivers, but the great ones add so much more. When running the rapids, the skill of a top notch guide determines whether you have a thrilling experience and one that keeps safety in mind at all times. A good whitewater river guide treats each guest with respect and exhibits genuine enthusiasm toward introducing their guests to the wonders of the river. A strong guide adds items such as local historical information, area wildlife or geological information to their conversation in the raft. Most importantly, an excellent guide is flexible and attentive to the needs and queries of rafting guests of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

Gratuities for Whitewater Rafting Guides

If you have enjoyed a rafting experience and feel that your guide has provided excellent service in the areas of whitewater skill, enthusiasm and care with your group, general knowledge of the river and surrounding area, etc., then a gratuity is always appreciated. Commercial ventures handle tips in one of two ways – tips are collected or “pooled” for all guides on the trip to share equally or tips are accepted directly from guests and go directly to the guide. It is acceptable to ask which policy is used by the outfitter that you have chosen for your whitewater rafting trip.

So How Much Should I Tip?

Sizing of gratuities for whitewater river guides depends on many factors – these include, but are not limited to the length of the trip, the cost of the trip and the level of whitewater on your trip. A gratuity can be based on the number of people in your rafting party or by using a percentage formula based on the overall cost of the rafting trip. Gratuities based on a per person basis can range from $5-$10 per person for a short or partial day rafting trip on mild or intermediate rapids. Per person gratuities can then range from $5+ – $20 per person for full day trips and day trips with very challenging rapids.  Multi-day trips require an additional commitment by both the guides and the guests – care for the guests and expectations from the guests last 24 hours each day. Gratuities for these trips reflect these added layers of round-the-clock attentiveness and are usually based on a percentage of the larger trip costs. Gratuities in the 5%-10% range of the trip cost are standard and can range higher for multi-day trips where service is exceptional.

When & Where Should I Tip My Whitewater River Guide?

Gratuities can be given to trip leaders or directly to the guide, depending on the situation. Some guests prefer to be more discreet and leave something in an envelope at the Front Desk with a note of thanks for the guide. If an outfit is pooling tips, often the gratuities are entrusted to the lead guide of the trip and then distributed later. If gratuities are accepted by individual guides, they can be given at the end of the adventure in person or left at the service desk if the guide is unavailable because of other duties or if they have returned to the river for another trip that same day.

Article by Frank Mooney, Crab Apple Whitewater Rafting
Deerfield River guide since 1990, Millers River guide since 1991, Kennebec River guide since 1991, Dead River guide since 1991, West River guide since 1991


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