Being a Whitewater Guide on the Yellowstone River

Guiding whitewater rafting trips on the Yellowstone River is one of the best ways to spend a summer. From meeting new folks and spending every day outside, to living by our nation’s first national park, each season is a new and exciting adventure.

Working as a whitewater guide on the Yellowstone has left me with some of my greatest memories and pushed me to be a better version of myself. I owe a lot of that to the folks at the Flying Pig and the community of Gardiner, Montana. 

In a short three months as a rafting guide, your coworkers quickly become your family. My name is CJ and I’ve been guiding with the Flying Pig for two summers. The community is what keeps bringing me back each year.


Becoming a Whitewater Rafting Guide

Becoming a guide is fairly simple. As long as you have the determination to brave freezing cold water, run interval sprints called hill repeats and trust people you’ve never met to have your back, you’ll get through training just fine!

Each whitewater outfitter tends to have their own river guide training techniques. Here at the Pig, rookies arrive mid-May with little to no experience on the water. A couple of weeks later, they’ve learned everything they need to take clients down the river. 

Whitewater guides at the Flying Pig learn to:

  • Read the river
  • Guide a boat
  • Command and lead a crew of inexperienced customers
  • Flip an overturned boat back over

Guides also must get CPR, First-Aid and Swiftwater certifications. These are the official regulations we must to have to be responsible and safe guides on the Yellowstone River. 

Knowing how to respond in critical situations is essential to our operation so each guest feels safe and well-taken care of.


Why Our Guides Love Flying Pig Adventures

A lot of guides move from towns and cities across the U.S. to spend the summer in Gardiner. The family dynamic at the Flying Pig is what keeps us coming back.

From the owners to the shuttle drivers to the guides, everyone pitches in to lend a hand, offer support, and answer questions. This collaborative spirit helps build a sense of family who cares about and for one another. 

It takes a village to operate a rafting company each season. Every day for three months, everyone needs to show up ready to work together and help one another to keep our momentum going. 

The sense of togetherness extends beyond our work and into our small town: From the folks at the café next door to the folks at the grocery store checkout, the welcoming and kind community in Gardiner is one of a kind.


A Typical Day on the Yellowstone River

Every day during the rafting season starts at 8 a.m. The guides get the rundown of how many boats we need ready for customers and what types of trips we’re taking. Flying Pig offers half-day and full-day whitewater trips, a scenic 8 mile float, and an exciting overnight rafting adventure.

The Pig is unique in the way we operate: We are the only whitewater shop in town that’s right on the river, meaning we can quickly get customers on the water from our shop. Using a zipline system, we hook the rafts up and lower them down to the water. 

Getting boats and rafting gear ready for the day happens all in one place. With all hands on deck we’re able to pump up boats, drop them to the river, and get all the whitewater gear ready by 8:45, when customers start arriving for the first adventures of the day.

Although we offer a variety of trip options, all trips go through exciting rapids and our guides do our best to answer customers’ questions and provide all the laughs for an unforgettable trip. 

Each day operates the same, but is different in how we individually do our jobs. The tasks stay the same but we rotate our duties so that we each do something different every day. As long as everyone is working hard and paying attention, things tend to run smoothly. 

By the end of the day, we all retire to “the nest”—our communal living space—and start making dinner. With a shared kitchen, shared bedrooms and one shared bathroom, you get close with your coworkers very quickly. 

Join the Whitewater Adventure With Flying Pig 

Being a whitewater rafting guide offers a unique life experience. Things move at a different pace on the river, especially the Yellowstone. By day, things move fast and there’s not a lot of time to think. By night, we come together with our stories of the day, laugh, drink a beer and wake up to do it all over again the next day.

Our experienced team ensures a safe, fun, and memorable experience, whether you’re navigating thrilling rapids or enjoying a scenic float. 

Ready for an unforgettable summer adventure? Reserve your trip with Flying Pig today and join us on the river!