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Licensed Guide Program

Guidelines of the Program

  • A guide is a person 18+ years of age who offers services for hire, part or all of which includes directing, instructing, or aiding another in fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, whitewater rafting/canoeing/kayaking, or rock and ice climbing.
  • The license on this page allows for individuals to participate and serve as guides for select recreational activities in New York State.
  • You do not need to be a resident of New York State to receive a guide's license.
  • All licensed guides must adhere to the rules and regulations found in the NYS Licensed Guides ECL Licensing of Guides (PDF) as stated in Environmental Conservation Law Section 11-0533 and New York Codes Rules and Regulations Part 197.
  • The Licensed Guide Equivalent Courses (PDF) indicate different classes that can be used to obtain certifications in CPR, First Aid, and Water Safety. These certifications are required to become a Licensed Guide.

A list of current New York State Licensed Guides is available on-line.

Fees & License Duration

The license is valid for 5 years. The first license category is $100 (includes application fee) and $20 for each additional category. There is no additional fee for boats and canoes.


Guide licenses are not required for individuals operating/assisting upon a public vessel for hire (passenger carrying vessels), licensed by the United States Coast Guard or New York State while on the following waters:

  1. The Atlantic Ocean
  2. All other marine, coastal, and tidal waters including:
    • The Hudson River up to the Troy Barrier Dam
    • The St. Lawrence River and the navigable portion of its tributaries
    • The Great Lakes and the navigable portion of their tributaries
    • Lake Champlain and the navigable portion of its tributaries
    • Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake and the navigable portion of their tributaries

Mechanically Propelled Boats

If you will be using a mechanically propelled boat while guiding on sole-state waters (outside of the above-mentioned marine waters), you are considered a Public Vessel. Please note this also includes dropping off clients at trail heads or wilderness camps on sole-state waters. You must take the Marine Services Bureau of NYS Parks exam and have your boat inspected annually. Please visit the NYS Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation website (leaves DEC website) for more information. You can also contact the Marine Services Bureau at or at 518-474-0445.

How to Apply

  1. Pass the exam(s) with a score of 70% or higher. A Study Guide (PDF) is provided for your review.
  2. Complete and submit the Guides License Application along with all required documents (an application form and instructions are provided after passing the exam(s)).
  3. At the time of licensing and throughout the term of the license, applicants for a guide's license must hold current certification in First Aid and CPR. Applicants must also take a Water Safety or Boater Safety course before applying for the license. These certifications are not needed when applying to take the exam but are required before license issuance. Choose from the accepted list of First Aid, CPR and Water Safety courses (PDF).
  4. Submit the Physician's Statement of Physical Condition Form (PDF), which was signed and dated no more than 30 days before submitting your application. The physician's statement is not needed to take the exam but must be received prior to license issuance.

Other Required Documents

  • Hunting and fishing guide applicants must submit a copy of a current hunting and/or fishing sporting license.
  • Whitewater rafting/canoeing/kayaking applicants must submit documentation of having completed five trips on for each river on which they wish to be licensed. Rivers on which a guide's license is required include: Black, Boreas, Cattaraugus, Indian/Hudson, Moose, Raquette, Salmon, and Schroon.
  • Whitewater rafting/canoe/kayak applicants must hold current instructor status for whitewater rafting/canoeing and/or kayaking.
  • Rock and ice climbing applicants must submit a notarized climbing resume. This resume will be reviewed and must meet a minimum level of climbing experience as listed on the Rock and Ice Climbing Information Sheet. This information sheet is included as the last page of the Rules and Regulations section of the NYS Licensed Guides ECL Licensing of Guides (PDF).

2023 Licensed Guide Examination Schedule

The following dates and times are the only dates and times that the examinations will be scheduled during 2023.

Except for the March 11th exam to be held at the winter NYSOGA (New York State Outdoor Guide Association) rendezvous, examinations will be held online in 2023. Anyone interested in becoming a licensed guide will need to pass the subject exam and the basic requirements exam before an application will be accepted.

2023 Examination Schedule
Exam Date Exam Times Registration Must
be Received by
February 3, 2023 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. February 1, 2023
March 11, 2023 NYSOGA meeting only March 4, 2023
March 31, 2023 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. March 29, 2023
May 12, 2023 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. May 10, 2023
June 23, 2023 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. June 21, 2023
July 7, 2023 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. July 5, 2023
September 15, 2023 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. September 13, 2023
October 13, 2023 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. October 11, 2023

Please be aware that although the online exams will be open for completion from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm, technological and general support will only be available from 9:00 am to 4:45 pm.

How to Register

To register for any of these exams, use the online registration link (leaves DEC website) and then follow the directions provided. Every guide must take the Basic Requirements exam, as well as the category exam(s) for which they choose to become a Licensed Guide. In addition, anyone who plans to use boats and/or canoes while guiding, even if just transporting clients to the guiding activity, must take the Boats and Canoes exam.

Once you complete your registration, you will receive an email acknowledgement of your registration along with a one-time link that you will use to access the exam(s) on the selected exam date.

Please Note: Upon successful completion of the exam(s) with a passing grade of 70% or higher, you will receive information on applying for the license including an application form. Please do not send applications or fees prior to passing the examination(s).


A Renewal Application (PDF) package will be mailed prior to the license expiration date noted on the license. Proof of current first aid and CPR are required for renewal and must remain valid through license term. A new Physician's Statement (PDF) must be submitted, and a valid hunting and/or fishing sporting license, if applicable.

The license renewal fee is the same as the original license: $100 for one category; $20 for each additional category. There is no additional fee for boats and canoes.

Change of Address

If your address changes, you must inform the department by submitting a Change of Address Form (PDF). It is the responsibility of the license holder to contact this office with any address changes in order for the renewal application to reach them.

Laws & Regulations

(links leave DEC website)

Licensed guides who violate any provision of Environmental Conservation Law or related rules and regulations may have their license revoked by DEC for up to one year.

For questions on state land and activity permitted on protected land, you can contact the DEC Forest Rangers.

  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 518-402-8985.
  • Contact for this Page
  • Special Licenses Unit
    625 Broadway, 5th Floor
    Albany, NY 12233-4752
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