Class of Rapids for Rafting
Whitewater rapids are classified based on their difficulty. The class of rapids for rafting ranges from I (one) to IV (six). A river can have multiple classifications depending on the portion of the river you are on. River sections should still be scouted routinely to see if there are any changes in a particular river stretch overtime or from varying environmental conditions. The American Whitewater Association has created an American system to evaluate rivers throughout the world. This scale is a guideline that is reviewed by an array of whitewater experts, but it is only a guideline not constrained by a rigid set of rules.
Class 1 Whitewater Rafting
- RaftingSpot Description: These rapids are in small rivers (or between more technical river stretches) that have few technical difficulties. Easily paddled down for all able bodied rafters and swimmers of all skill levels.
- American Whitewater Association Description: “Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.”
Class 2 Whitewater Rafting
- RaftingSpot Description: There is a clear line through the rapids that will require minimal maneuvering to avoid obstacles. Easily paddled down for all able bodied rafters and swimmers of all skill levels with minimal guidance.
- American Whitewater Association Description: “Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class II+”.”
Class 3 Whitewater Rafting
- RaftingSpot Description: These rapids are moderate in size and difficulty, but are known to a trained guide. They may require complex maneuvers to avoid obstacles and large waves capable of capsizing your raft. Recommended to scout or to have an experienced guide to allow all skill level rafters to safely go down these rapids.
- American Whitewater Association Description: “Rapids with moderate irregular waves that may be difficult to avoid and can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class III-” or “Class III+”.”
Class 4 Whitewater Rafting
- RaftingSpot Description: Powerful waves that are predictable and known to a trained guide. They will require precise boat handling due to unavoidable waves and obstacles. An eskimo roll may be needed if your raft capsizes. A trained guide with moderate to advanced skill level rafters recommended, not for beginners.
- American Whitewater Association Description: “Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must” moves above dangerous hazards. Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class IV-” or “Class IV+”.”
Class 5 Whitewater Rafting
- RaftingSpot Description: These rapids can be unpredictable and very difficult even to a trained seasoned guide. They require complex maneuvers, high level of fitness, and extensive experience paddling, swimming, and rescuing. Often scouted beforehand and only ran by a team of experts.
- American Whitewater Association Description: “Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. A very reliable eskimo roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential. Because of the large range of difficulty that exists beyond Class IV, Class 5 is an open-ended, multiple-level scale designated by class 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, etc…”
Class 6 Whitewater Rafting
- RaftingSpot Description: These stretches of a river are the most difficult and usually never attempted before. They require a team in place for inspection, running, and rescuing as they are only performed by daring experts.
- American Whitewater Association Description: “These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. After a Class VI rapids has been run many times, its rating may be changed to an appropriate Class 5.x rating.”