Whitewater 101

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.

RECOMMENDED RIVERS

  • 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

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