Get to Know the Classification System for Whitewater Rivers
The Savvy Rafter
Whenever someone goes rafting on whitewater rapids, it is indispensable that they have a good sense of what to expect from the river. Every river is rated on a scale to help determine the size and technicality of the rapids. This helps rafters to know what to expect and how to prepare.
Classes of Whitewater
To better understand this process, all whitewater rapids are rated on a scale of I to VI. The rapids receive ratings based on a mixture of difficulty and danger. The classification system is only a guide, however. It can also change by season, depending on the water level.
Class 1: Moving water with very few riffles and small waves. Few or no obstructions.
Class 2: Easy rapids with smaller waves, clear channels that are obvious without scouting. Waves up to three feet tall, which are easily seen. Some maneuvering is required during the ride.
Class 3: Waves up to four feet tall and narrow passages that send the boat shimmying and water typically spill over the side. Lots of excitement!
Class 4: Long, difficult rapids. Narrow passages, and turbulent water that requires precise maneuvering. These rapids send your heart racing!
Class 5: All of the above, in addition to large, complex, gushing rapids, twisting, and spinning water rapids. Extremely difficult, and very violent, long rapids with highly congested routes. There is a significant hazard to life in the event of a mishap. Raises blood pressure, delivers an adrenaline rush!
Class 6: The ultimate extreme. Only the most expert rider should try this one. Commercial raft trips don’t attempt this. Nearly impossible and very dangerous, so it is for teams of experts only. For the rest of us, try the other rapids!
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