Start A River Rafting Business – Business Ideas

Starting a river rafting business requires a great deal of effort, dedication, and most importantly passion.

If you’re interested in how to sell river rafting, or selling river rafting online, you can use this page as a guide for everything you’ll need to know.

Key Stats

Startup Costs

Min Startup CostsMax Startup Costs
Employee & Freelancer Expenses$151$252
Website Costs$223$7,015
Business Formation Fees$600$4,700
Vehicle Expenses$0$10,000
Retail Business Expenses$1,250$6,650
Advertising & Marketing Costs$75$3,986
Software Expenses$162$2,720
Office Space Expenses$0$100
Specific Industry Expenses$0$500
Total Startup Costs$2,461$35,923

Successful Businesses

Arizona Raft,982,058
Holiday River,682,349
Ocoee White Water,012,848
Grand Canyon Rafting,150,079
5 Day Main Salmon Rafting-5 Day Family Rafting,309,477
Whitewater river rafting adventures with Cascade Raft,436,870
All-Outdoors California Whitewater,570,021
Nile River,587,446
Indigo Creek Outfitters: Southern Oregon’s Rafting,602,415

Pros & Cons

Little startup costs requiredThe cost to start a river rafting business costs significantly less money than most businesses, ranging anywhere from 3,069 to 35,923.
Rewarding workStarting a river rafting business can be really rewarding work. After all, you are solving an immediate issue for your customer and you’re working on something you truly care about.
High customer retention ratesOnce a customer invests in your product, they’ve invested their time and energy to utilize your product/service which is highly valuable to them. Typically, your product or service becomes indispensable to your customer.
Pick & choose the clients you work withRiver Rafting Businesses have the ability to choose the clients they work with. You have the freedom to work with only a few loyal clients or with hundreds of clients!
Control of workloadWith starting a river rafting business, you have the unique ability to choose how little or how much you want to work. You also have the freedom to decide which projects you want to work on, and can turn down the ones that do not interest you.
Gain exposure and experienceThis career allows you to gain experience working for multiple different businesses – which will benefit your resume and also keep things interesting for you!
Motivation of employeesIf you plan to have a sales/content team on board, finding creative ways to motivate them can be a challenge. It’s important that you’re able to offer great incentives and a good work environment for your employees.
Longer Sales ProcessA river rafting business can be a big time and money investment for your customer, so it’s important you plan and predict a longer conversion funnel and stay in communication with potential customers.
Work can be inconsistentAs a river rafting business, the amount of work assigned to you and schedule tends to be more inconsistent, which may make your income less stable. It’s important to set boundaries and budget accordingly based on the amount of work you plan to have.
Lack of benefitsWith a river rafting business, you are typically self-employed and responsible for finding your own insurance, which can be quite costly and time-consuming.
TaxesAs a river rafting business, you typically pay self-employment taxes which can be quite high. It’s important to understand what you will be paying in taxes each year so you can determine if the work you’re taking on is worth it.
No safety netTypically, as a river rafting business, you do not receive a consistent pay-check and instead earn money based on your transactions each month. During the slow periods, you typically take away less since the job is based on commission. It’s important to budget accordingly for the slow times.

Hey! I’m Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.

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7 marketing strategies for your rafting or kayaking business

When training to become a raft or kayak guide, it’s all about learning the river. But as your business grows, you need to get to grips with some marketing and sales skills too.

You may be planning to expand your business, or you might even have allocations that you need to fill, meaning you need a steady flow of customers to avoid losing money.

Here are some of our best tips to get more people hearing about your kayaking and rafting trips and out on the water.


1. Use your website to show what you love about rafting or kayaking

There’s a great article titled “So you want my job: whitewater rafting” on The Art of Manliness, in which raft guide (and chemist) Joe Cope describes his love for the job:

“It took a while to learn the river, but once I did, it felt like I had done it my whole life. That’s when I knew that the Ocoee River was my home, or I guess more of a retreat. When I’m out there, I’m in a state of flow. Even a bad day on the river is better than a good day in most other places. I realized this about halfway through my first summer. That’s when I knew.”

Think about why you love it. Next, make this come through in your marketing. When you go on your website, it should make you–and customers–want to get straight on the raft. Do this with action-packed videos, photos, and text.


2. If you have the best guides in the area, show them off

A key component of a successful rafting company is finding the best guides and holding onto them. These are the guys and girls out on the raft not because they like the allure of not being in an office, but because they love the job–and love sharing the thrill with others.

You might have a team page on your website with a photo of each guide plus a bit of text about them. You could include why they got into rafting or kayaking, their background or experience, or even their favourite part of the job or place on the river.

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As with all businesses, customers like putting a face to the name. And in your business, cultivating trust is always a plus.

3. It’s all about the experience

If there’s one key takeaway from this article, it’s this: by providing the best rafting or kayaking trips possible, your business will market yourself. And your happy customers will, too. Focus on the client ’ s entertainment, treat each trip as a unique experience, and make every trip as enjoyable as you can.

Word-of-mouth couldn’t be more powerful, but it can go either way. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that a customer leaves the trip with positive impression. You know the drill: focus foremost on safety, then entertainment. Get customers shouting about how great rafting is to everyone and anyone.

river rafting engadin - Engadin Outdoor Center-4 - Engadin Outdoor Center

4. Give potential customers a sneak-peek of the experience

If a potential customer is thinking of booking one of your trips, help them imagine what it’s going to be like. Include high-quality videos of past trips on your website and social media, as well as photos that really sell the experience throughout your online and offline marketing. We like what our Swiss neighbour Outdoor Interlaken does on their website.

5. Let customers talk about you (and be a part of the conversation)

Once you’re providing customers with rafting and kayaking trips worth shouting about, make it easy for them to talk about you.

Be active on social media, let customers know this, and encourage them to mention you in their posts and reviews. It’s always better to focus your attention on one or two social networks, say Facebook and Twitter, than spreading yourself too thin with five.

Download our social media handbook for tour and activity companies

When someone mentions your business, respond. Nurture conversations and make customers want to recommend your trips to friends, or even book again for themselves.


6. Seek your niche in the adventure activity marketplace

Like you, your competitors want to provide customers with an adrenaline-packed and memorable experience on the water. To distingish yourself, you need to work out what makes your rafting trips unique.

Find your niche or unique selling point and promote this in all aspects of your marketing. By doing so effectively, your trips will stand out to those looking for the best choice for their first experience. It will also provide those who have rafted before with an extra incentive to book again.

7. Speed up your booking process

If someone’s made you their first choice for rafting or kayaking, don’t make booking a hassle and force them go elsewhere.

A simple solution is to use online booking software. After browsing options online, or getting to your website through TripAdvisor, people will be encouraged when they see a “book now” button on your homepage. It means they can instantly finalise their plans, and won’t have to pick up a phone or wait until your office is open to book.

Remove barriers to booking and payment using a system such as TrekkSoft’s, and see the amount of customers coming your way surge.

Find out why tour and activity providers in 121 countries use TrekkSoft booking and payment software:

How to Become a River Rafting Guide

How To Become A River Rafting Guide

You wake up early in the morning on a bright sunny day. You are heading to work but don’t need to dress formally.

You just throw on a pair of shoes and shorts and proceed towards the river in the national park.

As you hear the water gushing down the stream, you lavishly apply the sunscreen and are ready to put your raft in the river.

That could be the closest to an ideal vacation. But wait! This is not a vacation. It’s your job and you have just reached your workplace.

River rafting is one of the most exciting outdoor activities in the world. A sport that gained popularity in 1970s is now a great recreational activity.

You can find river rafting opportunities in numerous rivers around the world. Some offer extreme rapids while others provide a much smoother ride.

As much as you want to enjoy rafting alone, no river rafting spot offers the facility without a guide.

A river rafting guide ensures that you enjoy a safe and smooth ride as you go up and down the river.

The job of a river rafting guide can be an ideal job for anyone who loves being around water.

If river rafting fascinates you and you want to pursue a career in rafting, you do not need a professional qualification or experience.

On a positive note, you can be a seasonal river rafting guide so you don’t need to quit your existing job (if you have a professional career).

All you need is a license, the right age, perfect fitness and good sense of humor. Below you can find out how to become a river rafting guide.

Also, if you are not sure why you want to pursue this as a career, we provide some good enough reasons to motivate you.

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As you continue to read you will also find out about some of the possible employment opportunities at some of the popular rafting destinations in the US.

Why Become a Rafting Guide?

Why Become A Rafting Guide?

Being a river rafting guide is a job full of adventure and thrill. But apart from the fun aspect, there are many other reasons for becoming a river rafting guide.

Read on to find out the top reasons why people pursue this career and continue with it years after years.

River Rafting Is Fun

One of the most important reasons why people want to become a river rafting guide is because it is fun. For most people, the mundane desk job is not what they want.

They want the excitement and thrill associated with outdoor activity and there is no better option than river rafting.

Spending time in outdoors is an essential human need and rafting helps you meet that.

Though being a river rafting guide involves physical activity, but if are someone who thrives outdoors around water, then being a rafting guide is something you will definitely enjoy.

It is Challenging

If you spend most of your time sitting in front of the desk, you might want a change. Being a river rafting guide provides you this opportunity.

It gives you a chance to be physically active while being on the job. Once you get used to this physical activity on the job, it is highly likely that you will end up pursuing this as your career path.

Being a river rafting guide is not only physically challenging but it is also mentally challenging.

The job requires you to be in the moment so that you can immediately solve any problem which comes along the ride.

So whether you want to choose the best course for your raft or plan to prevent a possible clash, your brain is never at rest.

People who grow well on this stimulation certainly want a career as a river raft guide.

It is a Way to Expand Your Social Circle

Being a river rafting guide is all about making friendships which last for a lifetime.

A lot of young adults start their career as a rafting guide but as they go through the training process of becoming a guide, they get to know a lot of new people who become great friends.

Also, when these new guides join the workforce, it gives them a chance to meet different people on every single trip.

Some of these people become part of your social network which you can benefit from later in life.

How to Become a River Rafting Guide?

How Much Do River Rafting Guides Make?

The job of a river rafting guide is an excellent way to earn paychecks while enjoying the thrill and excitement of an outdoor water adventure.

So as you reap the benefits of improved fitness and making friends for life, you can do all this while making good money.

Similar to all professions, beginners in the industry need to work hard to make their way up the professional ladder. Only then they can enjoy the monetary benefits associated with their job.

But the best part of a rafting career is that most companies compensate well for new guides who take more responsibility and satisfy the clients.

Though each rafting company has a different compensation policy, a new rafting guide of average can make between $65 and $75 per day.

This is just an average so some rafting guides get slightly lower than this while others can earn much higher.

Since rafting is a seasonal job, over the course of the season, a guide earns a minimum of $4,000.

But as you gain more experience, the compensation tends to increase. Also, most companies offer a base pay and top it up with other benefits such as a bonus on x-number of trips.

Therefore, one of the best ways to earn more is to have guests who can request you as their guide.

How Many Rafting Hotspots are out There in the US?

How Many Rafting Hotspots Are Out There In The US?

Numerous rafting companies operate in almost all states of the country. Below you can find a list of some of the most amazing rafting hotspots in the country.

These locations are shortlisted based on popularity among tourists, experience with the rafting company (called outfitters) and guides and availability of activities other than rafting.

    , Grand Canyon – Arizona
  1. Tuolumne River – California
  2. Arkansas River – Colorado
  3. Gauley River – West Virginia
  4. Salmon River – Idaho
  5. Rogue River – Oregon
  6. Kennebec River – Maine
  7. Chattooga River – South Carolina
  8. Ocoee River – Tennessee

Moving Forward

Being a river rafting guide can be a dream profession for anyone who enjoys being in the water.

It comes with a unique set of benefits, a decent paycheck and lots of fun.

So if you are looking forward to a career in river rafting, now is the right time to apply.




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