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Raft Guide School

Bryson City, NC
from $325
Dates offered in early Spring and Summer.

Learn the skills needed to work as a professional raft guide at Nantahala Outdoor Center! World-class instruction, hands-on experience, and classic whitewater are just a few things to expect in this renowned course.

18+ Years Old
5 Days
Instructor and students in Raft Guide School
Rafting through rapids during Raft Guide School
Carrying a raft up a staircase during Raft Guide School
Instructor and students in Raft Guide School



Learn from the experts! Nantahala Outdoor Center is the leader in outdoor adventure since 1972 with professionally trained guides that have led more whitewater trips than any outfitter in the world.

At NOC Guide School, participants can expect top-notch training to gain the skills needed to pursue work as a professional raft guide for commercial outfitters, summer camps, clubs, and outdoor schools. Join a small group of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts for an intensive multi-day training at our 500-acre campus in the Nantahala River Gorge just outside of Bryson City.

Guide School not only teaches essential river skills but also provides students of all academic levels with personal growth and development, building skills in leadership, teamwork, communication, and self-confidence. We also have limited Guide School scholarship opportunities available.

Once you complete Guide School, utilize your new skills and apply for a fun and exciting position with NOC guiding guests down one of multiple rivers in the southeast.

If you’re looking for a Raft Guide Clinic just for fun and experience, see our Learn to Raft Guide Clinic!

What You’ll Learn

  • Essential River Skills
  • River Terminology
  • How to Read Whitewater
  • Risk Management
  • Working with Guests

Skills You’ll Acquire

  • Using River Signals
  • Maneuvering and Rigging Rafts
  • Knot Tying Techniques
  • River Rescue
  • Emergency Procedures
  • Equipment Maintenance
  • Basic River Operations

What to Expect

Designed as a fast-paced program, a majority of Raft Guide School instruction will take place on the river, teaching participants the essential skills needed to work as a professional raft guide. From start to finish, this challenge-by-choice program is designed to engage students early and create a learning environment geared towards your success as a student!

Most of the guide school will be spent on NOC’s main campus on the world-renowned Nantahala River. Whether you choose a week of guide school, where students will learn just as much off the river as instruction sessions are conducted in a group setting to further emphasize group camaraderie and learning opportunities.

From how to sit in a raft to running to Nantahala falls, our Guide School program is designed to give you all the tools to succeed in the whitewater rafting industry.

***Guide School dates are subject to change if minimum participation requirements are not met.


Upcoming Dates

Dates Location  
Mar 26-31, 2023 Bryson City, NC
Apr 2-7, 2023 Bryson City, NC
Apr 9-14, 2023 Bryson City, NC
Apr 16-21, 2023 Bryson City, NC
Apr 23-28, 2023 Bryson City, NC
May 7-12, 2023 Bryson City, NC



Nantahala Outdoor Center
13077 U.S. 19 West
Bryson City, NC 28713

Participants must be 18 years of age or older.

NOC provides the following:

  • All necessary specialty whitewater equipment
  • River Transportation
  • NOC’s renowned instruction from highly trained guides
  • 35% off river essentials during your guide school date,​ including PFDs, Helmets, Knives, Carabiners, Pulleys, Whistles, Webbing, and Rope.

Participants will check in on Sunday evening and have a meal (included) with their fellow students to prepare for the week ahead. Lunch each day of the course is also provided. You will have the option to add on the following when you purchase the Guide School course:

Breakfast & Dinner Package: Add Monday through Friday breakfast and dinner from Relia’s Garden Restaurant each day to your guide school course. Individual meals will not be available for purchase during the course at Relia’s Garden Restaurant.

We have two onsite restaurants for additional dining options outside of the package offered above, and convenience items are available for purchase at the General Store.

Lodging is not included in the Guide School Course price but may be added on when you purchase the Guide School course:

Shared Bunkhouse Lodging | Enjoy a shared lodging experience with others attending Guide School at NOC’s Basecamp! This option includes a twin-size bed in a shared sleeping area. You will also have access to a shared community building with a kitchen, dining hall, and shower house. Linens and kitchen supplies are not included. All rooms have electricity, heat, and air conditioning.

Shared Tent Lodging | Relax steps from the river and sleep under the stars in our raised platform tents. This option includes a shared two-person tent and access to facilities on campus.

NOC Provides the primary gear needed for each course including boats, paddles, PFD’s, helmets, splash tops and pants, wetsuit bottoms, and booties. Exclusive discounts are available for course participants at the Outfitter’s Store.


  • Band-Aids, Tape, Basic First Aid
  • Clothing and Personal Items
  • Shorts or Swimwear
  • Synthetic, Wool, or Silk Long Underwear
  • Wool Socks
  • Rain gear
  • Water Shoes or Old Sneakers
  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm

Optional Items

  • Sunglasses and eyeglass strap
  • Hat or visor
  • Ear plugs (if sensitive to water)


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