River Rapid Classes Explained

If you’ve been looking into a rafting trip for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that the rivers rapids come with class levels. A few different factors go into determining how rapids are classified and the scale used is referred to as the International scale of river difficulty and was created by the American Whitewater Association. Check out the list below that explains river rapid classes.

Class I

Float trips with no whitewater happen on Class I rivers. Essentially, the river water just flows over a few minimal obstructions and pose very minimal risk to the rafter. This type of water is appropriate for all levels of experience and any age that is in line with specific local laws and regulations.

Class II

Often considered to be novice level rapids, Class II waters feature visible obstructions that can be easily avoided. Trips on rivers with Class II rapids are considered safe for beginners and younger rafters.

Class III 

Class II is a typical beginner level for rafting. This is the level at which rafters can expect to get wet inside the raft. The river becomes more thrilling and challenging with rapids, eddies and moderately strong waves to navigate. Rafters should be able to perform boat maneuvers to control the raft in order to successfully run this class of rapids.

Class IV 

Intermediate to advanced rafters who are seeking a solid adventure should look for trips with Class IV rapids. Experience and skill level increases in this level with rivers providing turbulent water, holes, constricted passages and big rapids. It is important to be able to make fast and wise decisions in order to successfully navigate Class IV rapids. If you are not going with an experienced guide, it is highly recommended that you scout the river course before you put your raft in the water so you know what to expect. The Cheoah River is a great example of a river that has IV and IV+ rapids.

Class V 

At Class V, we have arrived at the water level that very experienced rafters chase after. Needed skills to successfully get through Class V rapids include the ability to execute preventative and self-rescue moves under pressure. Rapids here are unpredictable, long lasting, violent and can be dangerous if you are not prepared for them. It is best to either be an expert yourself or bring an expert or two with you when your trip involves Class V rapids.

Class VI 

Very few people choose to brave Class VI rapids because they are considered to be unrunnable by most people and present an extreme level of danger. Maximized risk and a high probability of serious injury or death are associated with Class VI rapids because their waters are unpredictable and loaded with dangerous obstacles. The margin for errors on Class VI rapids is nonexistent and rescue teams are likely to be unable to help if things go south.

Now that we’ve explained river rapid classes, let us know if you have any questions! Keep in mind that when you raft with Outland Expeditions, our guides are highly trained and experienced with every rapid and obstacle on the trips we offer. Their guidance and expertise successfully brings everyone from beginners to pros down the Upper and Middle Ocoee which boast fine examples of both Class III and IV rapids.

Can’t wait to try your hand at nature’s finest water adventure? Book your trip today!

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