Entrusting your life, really, to a river guide means you want to be absolutely confident in his or her abilities. Before you book a trip, as your outfitter these three questions:

How are your guides certified?

Professional river guide training requires over a hundreds hours learning on-river skills, techniques, decision-making, rigging, knot-tying and safety/rescue techniques, including swift-water rescue, first aid and CPR. Make sure the outfitter clearly displays its licensure and offers up safety and certification information—and is open and willing to discuss this critical information with your party. If not, that’s most likely a red flag.

How experienced are your guides?

Every river guide has to start somewhere, but make sure you’re comfortable with the experience level of your personal guide. If it’s a mellow float trip there’s a good chance you’ll be fine with a newer or younger guide, but if you are heading into serious rapids make sure you are placed with an experienced guide who has run many types of rivers or knows your particular stretch of river like the back of his or her hand. You can request the most experienced guide ahead of time.

How else are you committed to safety?

The most qualified whitewater outfitters include an extensive safety talk before any trip, including a review of personal and boat safety equipment, river paddling and swimming technique, boat seat safety, and more. Make sure the company you chose has protocol in place to walk everyone in your group through safety protocol and that your guide openly communicates about these processes and is willing to answer any safety question you pose.