A quick and dirty, layman's guide to the whitewater classification system
Whether you're thinking about hitting the rapids for the first time or you're a seasoned river rat, this handy guide gives a quick breakdown of the whitewater classification system.
CLASS I: EASY
No danger. Small waves and mostly slow-moving rapids. Nothing to worry about.
CLASS II: NOVICE
Mostly small, straight-forward rapids with few obstacles that may require occasional maneuvering.
CLASS III: INTERMEDIATE
Constant changing rapids, harsh currents, and tight passages require whitewater training and complex maneuvers to negotiate.
CLASS IV: ADVANCED
Turbulent water with intense currents, powerful rapids, and large waves — but predictable and manageable for highly skilled boaters.
CLASS V: EXPERT
Experts only. Highly dangerous, long, violent rapids, and lots of obstacles that require expert skills and a high level of fitness and stamina.
CLASS VI: EXTREME
The highest level of difficulty, unpredictable, and extremely dangerous, only run by professionals or experts under ideal conditions.
- Youghiogheny River, Maryland/Pennsylvania: Class III - IV
- Clackamas, Oregon: Class II - IV
- Colorado River, Gore Canyon, Colorado: Class IV - V
- Cheat River, West Virginia: Class IV
- Arkansas River, Colorado/Kansas/Oklahoma/Arkansas: Class I - V
- Snake River, Oregon/Idaho: Class III - IV
- Ocoee River, Polk County, Tennessee: Class III - IV
- Delaware River, New York: Class I - II
- Gauley River, Summersville, West Virginia: Class IV - V
- Lower Klamath, California: Class II - IV
- Hudson River, North Creek, New York: Class I - IV