Classes 1-6 of River Difficulty Explained

red kayak from Sun Dolphin and paddler

Whitewater rafting enthusiasts and adventure-minded kayaking fans may choose rivers which are just right for their skill levels and preferences.

Today, we’re going to give you the inside scoop on the six levels of river difficulty.

Once you understand how rivers are classified, you’ll find it easier to decide which rivers you should explore.

Whether your whitewater rafting or kayaking skill level is beginner, intermediate or advanced, you’ll find that our comprehensive guide takes the guesswork out of river selection.

Basic Facts About River Classifications

Whitewater river rafting

Rivers are ranked through a USA system which assesses the “international scale of river difficulty”. This American system evaluates single rapids (whitewater or not) and stretches of rivers. The classification system was invented by the AWA (American Whitewater Association) for categorizing rivers and rapids all over the globe.

This system helps whitewater kayaking fans, whitewater canoeists, stand-up paddle surfers, whitewater rafters and riverboarders to choose rivers which are ideal fits for their skills and preferences.

With this system, there is a group of six categories, which are referred to as classes or grades. Each class or grade includes a number. The scale is fixed. To cite an example of how the fixed system works, let’s say there are two Class III rivers. Both fit the general requirements for this class. However, one may be an “easy” Class III river, compared to the other, which is more challenging. They are both Class III, but a little different!

If you want to find out if a particular river or rapid is on the easier side of a specific class, or a bit more difficult, keep your eye out for a plus or minus sign next to the class number. A plus sign means “more challenging”. A minus sign means “less challenging”.

As you can see, this system is logical and very simple to understand.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to discussing each category on The International Scale of River Difficulty. The Classes of of rivers and rapids are Class I, Class II, Class III, Class IV, Class V and Class VI. The numbers are Roman numerals. However, you may also see rivers categorized as Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, Class 4, Class 5 and Class 6 rivers. It’s the same thing.

Class I Rivers

Group of whitewater rafting enthusiasts

Class I is the lowest level of river difficulty. Class I destinations are ideal for those who want a safer and mellower rafting or kayaking experience.

This class is categorized as “easy”. It includes water which is fast-moving. Expect smaller waves. Riffles (shallow landforms in flowing channels) will also be present. Overall, Class I rivers and rapids don’t have too many obstructions and all of the obstructions are quite obvious to experienced rafting and kayaking enthusiasts. However, if you don’t have proper training, you may not spot these obstructions.

When you choose a Class I river, you’ll be selecting a waterway which presents only a slight risk to swimmers. The “self-rescue” level of this type of river is classified as “easy”.

A Class I river is a pretty safe place to play. It’s ideal for family fun and appropriate for beginners. Overall, with this sort of river, you’ll get a sightseeing experience, rather than thrills and chills. It’s usually possible to take pictures while rafting on a Class I river. This should help to illustrate just how calm it is, especially in relation to rivers with violent rapids, such as Class V rivers. Recreational kayaks typically function just fine on Class I rivers.

Slave River is situated in Canada’s Northwest Territories, right on the border with the province of Alberta. This scenic river features sections of Class I whitewater. The Westfield River in Massachusetts, USA also has portions of Class I River.

Outside of Canada and America, consider exploring the Msta (spelling is correct) River in Novgorod Oblast, Russia.

Class II Rivers

view of bridge and river

Class II rivers are suitable for novices. They typically features rapids which are straightforward, as well as channels which are wide and easy to see, even without scouting. While occasional maneuvers will be needed in order to navigate these types of rivers successfully, it’s usually very easy to avoid medium-scale waves and rocks. If you do have experience, you’ll have little trouble paddling around anything that you want to stay away from.

Most swimmers stay safe in Class II rivers. They rarely get hurt while they’re swimming and generally don’t require group assistance in order to get back on shore.

Rapids in this class may be on the higher end of the Class II scale. If they are, they’ll be designated as Class II +.

If you’re wondering which type of kayak is best for Class II rivers, we recommend a hybrid recreational/whitewater kayak.

One example of a Class II river is Mosquito Creek in the Western Rockies of Canada. It has Class II and Class III sections. Another example is New York’s Salmon River. Salmon River is an American waterway with sections of Class I, Class II and Class III whitewater.

For international excitement, think about a rafting or adventure kayaking trip to the picturesque Arachthos River in Greece, which has Class II to Class IV sections.

Class III Rivers

Kayak on whitewater river

Class III is the intermediate class. When you choose to kayak or raft on this type of river, you will encounter moderate and irregular waves. These waves aren’t going to be easy to avoid! They do have the potential to swamp certain forms of boats, including open canoes. You’ll need to perform complicated maneuvers in quick currents. If you feel that you have the skills to control your vessel skillfully around ledges or in tighter passages, you may find Class III adventure very fulfilling and enjoyable.

With Class III, there will be big strainers and waves, but it’s usually simple to avoid them. As well, you should anticipate powerful currents, along with eddies which are strong. You’re more likely to run across major currents and powerful eddies if the Class III river has a big overall volume.

We recommend scouting before you get out on the water, especially if your group doesn’t have much experience. At Class III rivers, swimming injuries are rare. Also, self-rescue is typically simple. However, group assistance may be needed in order to avoid having to swim a long way to the store.

If you want to pilot a kayak rather than going rafting, consider a river runner kayak. It’s quite a popular choice for Class III waterways.

To find Class III action in the Great White North (Canada), spend some time out on the surging Kicking Horse River. It’s situated in southeastern British Columbia, within the gloriously scenic Canadian Rockies. Kicking Horse River has Class III and Class IV whitewater. In the USA, check out the North Creek of New York’s famous Hudson River. It offers Class III action, as well as Class I, II and IV whitewater.

For international Class III whitewater rafting or kayaking, test your mettle at the Lao River in Laino Borgo, Italy. It’s got Class III rapids and Class IV whitewater.

Class IV Rivers

Paddling the surging whitewater

Now, we’re getting into the rough stuff. This is the advanced level of river difficulty. It’s the type of whitewater experience that adrenaline junkies crave. If you have advanced adventure kayaking or rafting skills, you may find that Class IV rivers provide the level of challenge and excitement that you’re looking for.

With Class IV, expect rapids which are powerful and intense, yet predictable. You’ll need to handle your boat precisely in this type of turbulent whitewater. Rivers in this class vary in terms of their features, but most have big waves which can’t be avoided, as well as constricted passages and holes. To deal with these challenges, you’ll need to do quick maneuvers while you’re under pressure.

Eddy turns which happen fast may be required in order to get maneuvers underway (or to rest, or to scout the whitewater). If you’re used to “must-make” moves over hazards, then Class IV rivers may be right for you.

Sometimes, scouting is necessary before first runs on these rivers. Swimmers face a moderate to high risk of getting hurt. The conditions in these waterways may make it difficult to self-rescue. Group assistance is frequently needed in order to get swimmers to shore. However, group assistance requires training.

Class IV kayakers should know how to do strong rolls.

Class IV- rapids are going to be a little easier to navigate than Class IV+ rapids. A compact touring kayak may be good enough for this type of river action. A river runner will also be a good choice. If you want to do technical maneuvers in smaller sections of rapids, consider a playboat.

Find Class IV excitement in Canada at the Ottawa River, which is located in Ottawa River Provincial Park, in the province of Ontario. It offers Class III and Class IV whitewater. An American option is New River in Thurmond, West Virginia. New River is home to whitewater rapids with Class III and Class IV designations.

If you want to explore in Europe, check out the Paiva River in Portugal. You’ll love its Class III and Class IV whitewater.

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Class V Rivers

Extreme whitewater rafting

Class V rivers are for experts. They are rivers with “very violent” rapids and these rapids bring risk to paddlers. These rapids are very long and they are usually obstructed. When you take on the challenge of a Class V river, you may experience drops that come with big holes and waves which can’t be avoided, as well as congested chutes which are steep and technically demanding.

You’ll need to be very fit to handle the pressure. The rapids may feature long distances from pool to pool. If there are eddies, they will usually be turbulent and small. They may hard to reach. Class V+ rivers/rapids will have more risk factors and overall difficulty than Class V- rivers/rapids.

Scouting is a good idea but it’s often tough to do. As well, with these rivers, swimming is hazardous. Rescue is typically hard to undertake, even when experts attempt it. You’ll need appropriate equipment, a lot of experience and rescue skills that you’ve practiced time and time again.

These rivers have a slightly different scale, because they offer such a high level of river difficulty. For example, some rivers of this type may be graded 5.0, while others may be 5.2 or 5.1 or what have you. At this level of difficulty, every point matters.

Creekboats are good kayak options for Class V action.

In Canada, Quebec’s Neilson River offers Class IV and Class V action. In the US, Colorado’s Gore Canyon offers Class IV-V rapids.

For international and extreme whitewater kayaking and rafting, try the Wairoa River in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty (if you dare). It provides Class II-V options.

Class VI Rivers

Wild rapids on river

If you want the most extreme experience and you have sufficient skill and training, then you may be ready for Class VI rivers. These “exploratory and extreme” rapids are rapids that few attempt! They are extremely difficult to navigate safely. They are dangerous and unpredictable. Errors may result in severe consequences. Rescue may not even be an option.

For this reason, we think that only groups of experts should even consider rafting or kayaking on Class VI rivers. Before going out on these forms of rapids, water levels should be assessed, inspections of equipment should be performed and all precautions should be taken. If a lot of people manage to make it through this type of river, it may get a downgrade to Class V.

You’ll need the most reliable and advanced equipment. It has to be right for the most extreme conditions. If you need to ask which equipment is right for Class VI river rapids, you’re probably nowhere near ready to attempt them!

So, where to find these crazy river rapids? One option is Celestial Falls, in White River, Oregon, USA. Another is Victoria Falls, at the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe/Zambia, Africa.

Now that you know the six classes of river difficulty, why not plan a rafting or kayaking trip that suits your skill level?

Whitewater River Rafting Levels – Know The Scale of Danger

Whitewater rafting is an excellent outdoor activity that is all about experiencing nature and adrenaline. However, every river is different, and there are different levels of difficulty that come with each level. Before you head out into the water, you must learn more about these different types of white water rapids.

Whitewater Rafting Rating System

The international scale of difficulty for whitewater rafting is an American rating system used to determine the level of difficulty for a stretch of a river or a whitewater rapid. The scale was created to evaluate rivers all over the world by American Whitewater Association. The scale has six different categories, and each is referred to as “Class.”

Whitewater rafting can and cannot be a difficult sport, depending on the class you choose. Each class explains the degree of spine chills that you want to enjoy, and some of them are easy to go rafting on, whereas some are very difficult. These classes help in figuring out how much experience you will need and what you can expect on the rapid you choose to go on.

Each class is designed for a specific category. For example, class one is perfect for kids, adults, and beginners of all ages, whereas class 6 is for daredevils and adrenaline junkies. However, it is a smart idea to trust your guide to choose the right class for you since they assess your capabilities and then place you in the group suited for your skillset.

whitewater rafting levels

Class 1: Easy – For Everyone

This class of rafting represents a river flow that is incredibly peaceful and has minimal obstructions. If you opt for this level, then that simply means that you will have a very relaxed ride, and you’ll be flowing along with the river’s flow of current. It will have some occasional small waves and some obstacles like every other river but not something that you will have to be concerned about.

In easy terms, class 1 is a fast-moving water body with small waves and riffles. The few obstructions are very obvious and can be easily missed using little training. The risk to swimmers on this river is very little, and self-rescuing can be done easily, which makes it ideal for kids and beginners. Some examples of rivers having class 1 include the Big Vermillion River in Illinois and the Whitewater River in Indiana.

Class 2: Novice – Safe Adventures for Families

Class II is ideal for novices and families that love a little adventure. This class has straightforward rapids that have clear and wide channels that you can see through without any scouting. When whitewater rafting on a class 2 river, you will need to be prepared for the occasional maneuvering.

On this class river, most medium-sized waves and rocks can easily be missed by paddlers who are trained a bit. Swimmers do not get injured on these rapids, and group assistance can be helpful but is seldomly needed. Rapids that paddlers can come across at the upper end of this range are known as Class II+, and if you start seeing rougher waves, then it means you have entered the domain of Class 2 level rafting. At the upper end, you can also come across waves that are three feet tall (no more than that), along with boulders and occasional rocks.

Requirement

This class requires you to have a slightly good grip on maneuvering, and here you will have to stay on your toes because you will have to steer your raft away from different obstacles your way.

Location

Some locations for Class II rafting include Cloudburst, Onion Creek Rapid, and Rocky Rapid at Colorado River situated near Moab, Utah.

Class 3: Intermediate – For Thrill-Seeking Beginners

When it comes to class three whitewater rafting river, it can simply be described as a class designed for beginners who want to have a thrill-seeking adventure. Rapids that have irregular wave patterns with moderate waves are usually what you can expect on this river trail. The waves on this rapid are up to four to five feet tall and are difficult to avoid. They can also swamp a canoe easily. Sometimes, you will feel the boat shimmy and jolt due to the punch of these waves, but this jolt is very brief and thrilling for many.

Here, you can come across some strainers and even large waves, but since it is designed for intermediate levels, you can easily avoid it. Furthermore, class III is made of powerful current effects and very strong eddies, especially if you are rafting on rivers with large water volumes.

Non-guided rafts can find themselves in trouble if they are rafting in a class III river on their own. For this reason, If you are an inexperienced party, then you will definitely need scouting. However, this class does not have a lot of injuries while swimming, and self-rescue is easy but does require group assistance, especially in order to avoid long swims.

rafting levels

Requirement

The requirement for rafting on this rapid includes the ability to master complex maneuvering in fast currents because you don’t know where an obstacle may show up. Also, you must be able to keep your boat in good control when passing around ledges and tight passages because the currents will feel stronger here.

Locations

Some areas where you can enjoy Class III rafting include:

  • Marble Canyon, Staircase, Big Hummer, Funnel Falls, Sock-it-to-me, Bowling Alley, Last Chance – all these rapids are located in Westwater Canyon on the Colorado River present near Moab, Utah.
  • Three Fords Rapid, Cow Swim Rapid – which are present in Desolation Canyon on the Green River in Utah.
  • Ben Hurt, Mile Long – rapids present in Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River in Utah.

Are Class 3 Rapids Dangerous?

Whitewater rafting in class 3 rapids makes the water appear white – this is due to the small waves and bubbles, but it doesn’t pose any considerable danger. It does require experienced maneuvering and strong paddling skills but is not a risky rapid to raft on. However, rapids at the upper end are classified as Class III+ and are dangerous. Also, for people under the age of twelve, such rapids must be avoided.

Class 4: Advanced – For Experienced Adventurers

This kind of whitewater rafting river is designed specifically for experienced and professional adventurers. This is because it has powerful and intense rapids that are predictable but can be tricky as well. You will need to have good boat handling, especially in turbulent water. Depending on the mood of the river, it may feature some unavoidable yet large waves along with constricted passages and holes that require alertness and quick maneuvering.

The risk of injury to swimmers on this kind of rapid is high to moderate, which is not ideal for first-timers. Furthermore, the water conditions can make self-rescuing difficult on your own. Most of the time, even for experienced swimmers, group assistance is needed for rescue. In order to go rafting in Class IV rapids, you will need practiced skills along with a good practice of performing a strong Eskimo roll to give you the edge you need.

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In simple words, Class IV rapids involve narrow passages, large waves, and multiple obstacles that must be avoided, which requires precision in maneuvering on turns.

Requirement

What you need to know when rafting in class 4 rivers is precise handling of the boat along with reliable and fast turns. These eddy turns will make you scout rapids, maneuver around, and even rest. Scouting for class IV is very necessary if it is your first time on such a rapid.

Location

If you want to go on these slightly dangerous rapids for more thrilling and experience fun, then simply head to the following sites:

  • Skull Rapid – found in Westwater Canyon, Colorado River near Moab, Utah.
  • Big Drop 3, also known as Satan’s Gut, and Big Drop 2 in the Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River near Moab, Utah.
  • Dubendorff, Hance, Granite, IV+ Sockdolager in the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River.

Class 5: Expert – For Seasoned Veterans

Class 5 rapids are described as obstructed, violent, and extremely long, which can be very risky for a paddler. It contains unavoidable large waves along with steeps and holes, demanding routes, and congested complexed chutes. Class 5 rapids continue for very long distances in between pools, which is why the paddler needs to have an excellent level of fitness.

The eddies present in these rapids can be turbulent, small, and sometimes very difficult to reach, whereas, at the higher end of the scale, all of these factors are mixed, allowing only an expert to raft through them. Due to the large difficulty range lying beyond the class 5 rapid, it is considered an open-ended and multi-level class.

It is further classified as 5.0, 5.1, and 5.2, etc., and each magnitude is more difficult than the previous one. For example, if you increase the difficulty level from Class 5.0 to Class 5.1, then this is the same as increasing the difficulty from Class IV to Class V.

Requirements

The main requirement for class V rapids is good fitness along with scouting. Swimming in these rapids is very dangerous, and rescuing is often very difficult, even for professionals. To raft in these waters, a reliable Eskimo roll, extensive experience, proper equipment, and practiced skills for rescue work are needed.

Locations

  • The Wind River Canyon Whitewater, Thermopolis, US
  • Hood River’s West Fork, Columbia Gorge
  • Farmlands Stretch of White Salmon River, Pacific Northwest
  • Husum Falls Drop, Klickitat County, Washington
  • Lava Falls, Crystal Rapids – situated at Grand Canyon, Colorado River

Class 6: Extreme and Exploratory Rapids – For Those with a Deathwish

Whitewater rafting in class 6 rapids has almost never been attempted. This is because Class VI rapids exemplify the extremity of unpredictability, difficulty, and danger to a whole new level. It has no space for errors because the consequences for such errors lead to drowning, and rescue can, in most cases, be impossible.

After a paddler has run over a Class VI rapid many times and been successful, which is a rare case, then the rating for this can be altered to a Class 5.x rating. However, this is not the end of the class. There are also rapids with class VII and VIII ratings, and they are similar to VI but require more focus. These rapids come with plenty of narrow, long, and difficult passages with turbulent water. Just like class VI, both class VII and class VIII are designed for professional rafting enthusiasts who have mastered the art of precision maneuvering.

This is the ultimate navigable river system and is for daredevils who are not afraid to risk it all. Such rapids provide you with a higher adrenaline rush and are very similar to class VI rapids. Here, you will find plenty of spinning, gushing rapids, obstacles as big as a house, and twisting water features. The Tunnel rapids and Gore in the Colorado River are two examples of such streams.

Requirements

Class VI whitewater rafting is very, very dangerous. It is ideal for a team of experts only and that, too, under favorable water levels, taking all kinds of necessary and over-the-top precautions and making close personal inspections. Remember, taking safety precautions here is essential.

Location

You can find class VI rapids at:

  • Costa Rica’s Pacuare River can reach this class when there’s a high run-off. During this time, no rafting occurs, but you can do it if you want a daredevil adventure.

Whitewater River Rafting Levels

When Do I Need a Rafting Class?

This is the most common question asked by people wanting to go on these water adventures. If you are wondering about the appropriate age for joining these classes, then you should know that there is no hard and fast rule to determine the age. Some factors that do play a part include the difficulty level of rapids, the length of the river, and the time it’ll take to cover it, along with good paddling.

Younger children and some adults have a good attention span that they can dedicate to this activity. Younger kids that are around the ages of five to nine are more suited for river trips that can last around three hours on the water, whereas some have a shorter span of one to two hours.

Every child is different and has a different attention span. Kids that are over the ages of 10 up to their teens can enjoy full-day trips with three to five hours of river time. Middle-aged teens can enjoy long days on the rafts and even overnight river rafting adventures.

If your child is five years old or above, then he can be introduced to rafting classes right away, and if you are in your mid-teens or twenties, then you can take these classes as well.

When it comes to whitewater rafting adventure, then you can take kids under the age of twelve on rapids with a Class 1 to 3 rating. However, kids older than twelve can handle class 4, depending on the learning they have had and the paddling help that the guide may need. Class 5 can only be enjoyed by strong paddlers and individuals who are quick and can react quickly. In simpler terms, Class 5 is good for older teens only.

Apart from the age limits mentioned above, anybody can easily take rafting classes whenever they want. This is a very fun sport to learn and provides you with a whole new experience that you have never experienced before.

Conclusion

When deciding on which river rafting tour is ideal for you, don’t stress yourself out. The best advice we can give you on choosing the right class is to trust your river rafting operational guide to choose the right route for your excursion. These guides are professionals and have years of experience; they will size your entire family or the group you are going with and then narrow down the choices of which route and class to take.

They run these rivers daily and want you to enjoy the river as much as they want to. So whichever river rafting tour you pick for your family, just relax and have the time of your life. Read the guide mentioned above to get a grasp on the different classes and locations present, and most importantly, make sure to have fun.

Classes 1-6 of River Difficulty Explained

red kayak from Sun Dolphin and paddler

Whitewater rafting enthusiasts and adventure-minded kayaking fans may choose rivers which are just right for their skill levels and preferences.

Today, we’re going to give you the inside scoop on the six levels of river difficulty.

Once you understand how rivers are classified, you’ll find it easier to decide which rivers you should explore.

Whether your whitewater rafting or kayaking skill level is beginner, intermediate or advanced, you’ll find that our comprehensive guide takes the guesswork out of river selection.

Basic Facts About River Classifications

Whitewater river rafting

Rivers are ranked through a USA system which assesses the “international scale of river difficulty”. This American system evaluates single rapids (whitewater or not) and stretches of rivers. The classification system was invented by the AWA (American Whitewater Association) for categorizing rivers and rapids all over the globe.

This system helps whitewater kayaking fans, whitewater canoeists, stand-up paddle surfers, whitewater rafters and riverboarders to choose rivers which are ideal fits for their skills and preferences.

With this system, there is a group of six categories, which are referred to as classes or grades. Each class or grade includes a number. The scale is fixed. To cite an example of how the fixed system works, let’s say there are two Class III rivers. Both fit the general requirements for this class. However, one may be an “easy” Class III river, compared to the other, which is more challenging. They are both Class III, but a little different!

If you want to find out if a particular river or rapid is on the easier side of a specific class, or a bit more difficult, keep your eye out for a plus or minus sign next to the class number. A plus sign means “more challenging”. A minus sign means “less challenging”.

As you can see, this system is logical and very simple to understand.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to discussing each category on The International Scale of River Difficulty. The Classes of of rivers and rapids are Class I, Class II, Class III, Class IV, Class V and Class VI. The numbers are Roman numerals. However, you may also see rivers categorized as Class 1, Class 2, Class 3, Class 4, Class 5 and Class 6 rivers. It’s the same thing.

Class I Rivers

Group of whitewater rafting enthusiasts

Class I is the lowest level of river difficulty. Class I destinations are ideal for those who want a safer and mellower rafting or kayaking experience.

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This class is categorized as “easy”. It includes water which is fast-moving. Expect smaller waves. Riffles (shallow landforms in flowing channels) will also be present. Overall, Class I rivers and rapids don’t have too many obstructions and all of the obstructions are quite obvious to experienced rafting and kayaking enthusiasts. However, if you don’t have proper training, you may not spot these obstructions.

When you choose a Class I river, you’ll be selecting a waterway which presents only a slight risk to swimmers. The “self-rescue” level of this type of river is classified as “easy”.

A Class I river is a pretty safe place to play. It’s ideal for family fun and appropriate for beginners. Overall, with this sort of river, you’ll get a sightseeing experience, rather than thrills and chills. It’s usually possible to take pictures while rafting on a Class I river. This should help to illustrate just how calm it is, especially in relation to rivers with violent rapids, such as Class V rivers. Recreational kayaks typically function just fine on Class I rivers.

Slave River is situated in Canada’s Northwest Territories, right on the border with the province of Alberta. This scenic river features sections of Class I whitewater. The Westfield River in Massachusetts, USA also has portions of Class I River.

Outside of Canada and America, consider exploring the Msta (spelling is correct) River in Novgorod Oblast, Russia.

Class II Rivers

view of bridge and river

Class II rivers are suitable for novices. They typically features rapids which are straightforward, as well as channels which are wide and easy to see, even without scouting. While occasional maneuvers will be needed in order to navigate these types of rivers successfully, it’s usually very easy to avoid medium-scale waves and rocks. If you do have experience, you’ll have little trouble paddling around anything that you want to stay away from.

Most swimmers stay safe in Class II rivers. They rarely get hurt while they’re swimming and generally don’t require group assistance in order to get back on shore.

Rapids in this class may be on the higher end of the Class II scale. If they are, they’ll be designated as Class II +.

If you’re wondering which type of kayak is best for Class II rivers, we recommend a hybrid recreational/whitewater kayak.

One example of a Class II river is Mosquito Creek in the Western Rockies of Canada. It has Class II and Class III sections. Another example is New York’s Salmon River. Salmon River is an American waterway with sections of Class I, Class II and Class III whitewater.

For international excitement, think about a rafting or adventure kayaking trip to the picturesque Arachthos River in Greece, which has Class II to Class IV sections.

Class III Rivers

Kayak on whitewater river

Class III is the intermediate class. When you choose to kayak or raft on this type of river, you will encounter moderate and irregular waves. These waves aren’t going to be easy to avoid! They do have the potential to swamp certain forms of boats, including open canoes. You’ll need to perform complicated maneuvers in quick currents. If you feel that you have the skills to control your vessel skillfully around ledges or in tighter passages, you may find Class III adventure very fulfilling and enjoyable.

With Class III, there will be big strainers and waves, but it’s usually simple to avoid them. As well, you should anticipate powerful currents, along with eddies which are strong. You’re more likely to run across major currents and powerful eddies if the Class III river has a big overall volume.

We recommend scouting before you get out on the water, especially if your group doesn’t have much experience. At Class III rivers, swimming injuries are rare. Also, self-rescue is typically simple. However, group assistance may be needed in order to avoid having to swim a long way to the store.

If you want to pilot a kayak rather than going rafting, consider a river runner kayak. It’s quite a popular choice for Class III waterways.

To find Class III action in the Great White North (Canada), spend some time out on the surging Kicking Horse River. It’s situated in southeastern British Columbia, within the gloriously scenic Canadian Rockies. Kicking Horse River has Class III and Class IV whitewater. In the USA, check out the North Creek of New York’s famous Hudson River. It offers Class III action, as well as Class I, II and IV whitewater.

For international Class III whitewater rafting or kayaking, test your mettle at the Lao River in Laino Borgo, Italy. It’s got Class III rapids and Class IV whitewater.

Class IV Rivers

Paddling the surging whitewater

Now, we’re getting into the rough stuff. This is the advanced level of river difficulty. It’s the type of whitewater experience that adrenaline junkies crave. If you have advanced adventure kayaking or rafting skills, you may find that Class IV rivers provide the level of challenge and excitement that you’re looking for.

With Class IV, expect rapids which are powerful and intense, yet predictable. You’ll need to handle your boat precisely in this type of turbulent whitewater. Rivers in this class vary in terms of their features, but most have big waves which can’t be avoided, as well as constricted passages and holes. To deal with these challenges, you’ll need to do quick maneuvers while you’re under pressure.

Eddy turns which happen fast may be required in order to get maneuvers underway (or to rest, or to scout the whitewater). If you’re used to “must-make” moves over hazards, then Class IV rivers may be right for you.

Sometimes, scouting is necessary before first runs on these rivers. Swimmers face a moderate to high risk of getting hurt. The conditions in these waterways may make it difficult to self-rescue. Group assistance is frequently needed in order to get swimmers to shore. However, group assistance requires training.

Class IV kayakers should know how to do strong rolls.

Class IV- rapids are going to be a little easier to navigate than Class IV+ rapids. A compact touring kayak may be good enough for this type of river action. A river runner will also be a good choice. If you want to do technical maneuvers in smaller sections of rapids, consider a playboat.

Find Class IV excitement in Canada at the Ottawa River, which is located in Ottawa River Provincial Park, in the province of Ontario. It offers Class III and Class IV whitewater. An American option is New River in Thurmond, West Virginia. New River is home to whitewater rapids with Class III and Class IV designations.

If you want to explore in Europe, check out the Paiva River in Portugal. You’ll love its Class III and Class IV whitewater.

Class V Rivers

Extreme whitewater rafting

Class V rivers are for experts. They are rivers with “very violent” rapids and these rapids bring risk to paddlers. These rapids are very long and they are usually obstructed. When you take on the challenge of a Class V river, you may experience drops that come with big holes and waves which can’t be avoided, as well as congested chutes which are steep and technically demanding.

You’ll need to be very fit to handle the pressure. The rapids may feature long distances from pool to pool. If there are eddies, they will usually be turbulent and small. They may hard to reach. Class V+ rivers/rapids will have more risk factors and overall difficulty than Class V- rivers/rapids.

Scouting is a good idea but it’s often tough to do. As well, with these rivers, swimming is hazardous. Rescue is typically hard to undertake, even when experts attempt it. You’ll need appropriate equipment, a lot of experience and rescue skills that you’ve practiced time and time again.

These rivers have a slightly different scale, because they offer such a high level of river difficulty. For example, some rivers of this type may be graded 5.0, while others may be 5.2 or 5.1 or what have you. At this level of difficulty, every point matters.

Creekboats are good kayak options for Class V action.

In Canada, Quebec’s Neilson River offers Class IV and Class V action. In the US, Colorado’s Gore Canyon offers Class IV-V rapids.

For international and extreme whitewater kayaking and rafting, try the Wairoa River in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty (if you dare). It provides Class II-V options.

Class VI Rivers

Wild rapids on river

If you want the most extreme experience and you have sufficient skill and training, then you may be ready for Class VI rivers. These “exploratory and extreme” rapids are rapids that few attempt! They are extremely difficult to navigate safely. They are dangerous and unpredictable. Errors may result in severe consequences. Rescue may not even be an option.

For this reason, we think that only groups of experts should even consider rafting or kayaking on Class VI rivers. Before going out on these forms of rapids, water levels should be assessed, inspections of equipment should be performed and all precautions should be taken. If a lot of people manage to make it through this type of river, it may get a downgrade to Class V.

You’ll need the most reliable and advanced equipment. It has to be right for the most extreme conditions. If you need to ask which equipment is right for Class VI river rapids, you’re probably nowhere near ready to attempt them!

So, where to find these crazy river rapids? One option is Celestial Falls, in White River, Oregon, USA. Another is Victoria Falls, at the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe/Zambia, Africa.

Now that you know the six classes of river difficulty, why not plan a rafting or kayaking trip that suits your skill level?

Source https://kayakjudge.com/international-scale-of-river-difficulty-explained/

Source https://www.riverexchange.org/whitewater-river-rafting-levels/

Source https://kayakjudge.com/international-scale-of-river-difficulty-explained/

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