Every whitewater weekend warrior knows the feeling of paddling rapids on a gorgeous river and wondering, “What if this could be every day?” Rivers bring life to communities, can be a source of economic and recreational development and add vibrancy and scenery to the landscape. For those who love to paddle, fish and engage with the rivers during our time off, the idea of working in or at the river every day is a dream—or if you pursue one of the jobs below, simply the 9-to-5 routine.
Top 7 coolest river jobs
1 Raft guide
The classic river job means you can be on the water every day in the spring and summer. Great qualities in a raft guide are excellent social skills, a sense of humor and an ability to react fast under pressure. Raft guiding is as much about river culture as it is paddling. Many rafting companies have on-site staff housing, great parties and a large community of like-minded paddlers to go kayaking with on time off. If you have wrapped up your North American raft guiding season and aren’t ready to put down the paddle, learn how and where you can continue the guide life all winter long.
2 Fly fishing guide
If you love rivers, working as a fly-fishing guide is a great way to engage with the intricacies of these waterways. A key part of fly-fishing is reacting to the conditions of the river and being able to mimic the insects present on the surface. Expert fly fishing guides know every detail of their home rivers at every time of year. Working as a fly-fishing guide is seasonal work, but some get creative and spend the winter working in warm water destinations or at other jobs.
Testing new boats is a whitewater gear junkie’s dream job. We are lucky at Paddling Magazine that we get to paddle our awesome local rivers in the newest boats. Experiencing new designs and materials first hand makes us pretty stoked to head to the river. But don’t be too jealous: mid-January boat testing is not as fun as June boat testing.
Trail-building jobs in North America’s provincial, state and national parks can put you on the shores of some of the most iconic and powerful rivers on the continent. In the summer, many trail builders live out of tents close to where they are working. For a paddler, this is a great excuse to get to know all the features and sets on a river in depth before heading out to paddle them. Bonus? Your extensive knowledge of the area you worked in means you will know all the prime camping spots.
5 Whitewater photographer/videographer
Getting paid to travel the world shooting kayaking means you can combine a love for rivers and work. Professional photographers and videographers working in this area are usually skilled paddlers already immersed in the paddling community. The ability to be creative, resourceful and problem solve are key as well. We interviewed Mike McKay to find out how he quit his day job to film kayaking full-time.
6 Play park engineer
Whitewater play parks are an amazing way to invigorate a community and give urban paddlers a place to improve their skills. For the city-dwelling kayaker, a play park also means a place to connect with other paddlers and form friendships. While play parks are sometimes not on real rivers, a job working with architects to simulate river features means understanding the ins and outs of how rivers work. For someone who wants to spend lots of time outside and contribute to the whitewater stoke in their city, engineering play parks is a perfect fit.
7 River rat
No, it’s not really a job. Yet the river rat life is full of work, from constantly re-organizing the van to stealing grocery store Wi-Fi to locating the nearest public pool showers to rationing white bread and peanut butter. The benefits? No dental, but unlimited access and time on rivers.
“What if this could be every day?” | Feature photo: Kamil Porembiński/Flickr