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White Water Rafting River Ratings

White Water Rafting River RatingsAll Rivers that qualify for white water rafting have¬†White Water Rafting River Ratings using roman numerals I to VI. This is according to the International Scale of River Difficulty. Note also that a river’s level of challenge changes with fluctuations in water levels; a river rated Class IV at medium water levels might resemble a Class III river at lower water levels, while at higher levels, it might look more like a Class IV+. The rating system used in the Grand Canyon, which rates rapids 1 to 10, pre-dates the modern Class I-VI system of rating rapids. A “10” in the Grand Canyon is comparable to a Class V rapid elsewhere.

Time of Year for White Water Rafting River Ratings

The time of year and the seasonal snow load can have a dramatic effect on the flow of water in the river and hence the class of rapid that you may be traversing. Check for local conditions before booking any rafting trip. Spring water flow levels can be very different from summer flows, so it is always important to confirm the level of difficulty before you book.

Note that multi-day expeditions can have a wide variety of rapids on a single trip, from class I to class V, so check with your outfitter to get details about that rivers specific white water rafting river ratings. Most companies will require evidence of previous experience if you are planning to run Class IV rapids.

Match White Water Rafting River Ratings to Skill Level

First-time and veteran rafters alike thrive on class II, III and some class IV rivers and rapids. Class V river trips–especially for paddlers–usually require two or more previous trips and previous Class IV experience. When booking your rafting trip with a Rafting America company, make sure you let the outfitter know your comfort and experience level so they can recommend the right tour for you. You may also need to be able to demonstrate that you have the stamina and the skill level to swim out of a class IV rapids if the raft capsizes in one of these rapids.


Easy – Waves small, passages clear; no serious obstacles, perfect for all ages and abilities. No guide needed.


Medium – Rapids of low difficulty with passages clear. Suitable for everyone, no experience necessary. A guide is preferable for these rapids, but not required.


Moderate – Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks; eddies; rapids with passages clear though narrow, requiring experience in maneuvering. No previous experience is necessary.


Difficult – Long rapids; waves powerful, irregular; dangerous rocks; boiling eddies; powerful and precise maneuvering required. Have an experienced guide. Previous experience is helpful but not necessary.


Extremely Difficult – Exceedingly tricky, long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops; fierce currents; very steep gradient. Paddlers should have prior Class IV or better whitewater experience with experienced guides who know the river.


Un-runnable! Just like it says – Don’t even think about it! These constitute waterfalls and other death-traps that should not be attempted.

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3 Responses to “White Water Rafting River Ratings”

  1. […] If you want to read more about this rating system, go to White Water rafting river ratings or click here. This page will fill you in on the rating system and provide you with a broad gauge of what to […]

  2. Did not know that the classed river rapids that way, good to know that white water rafting has these classifications

  3. […] of difficulty and physical requirements. If you want to read more about this rating system, go to White Water rafting river ratings or click here. This page will fill you in on the rating system and provide you with a broad gauge […]

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