These explanations of River Rapid Ratings by Valley Sports is provided as a guide only to understanding White Water Ratings.
Class I river rapid ratings are the easiest and less effort and skill required. Class I ratings are fast moving water with riffles and small waves. The river has few obstructions. The obstructions are all visible and easily missed with little effort. In the event you end up in the water self rescue is easy.
Class II River Rapid Ratings are Straight forward rapids with wide, clear channels which are easy to see without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by most paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed if you end up in the water. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class II+.”
Class III river rapid ratings are rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be hard to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe or kayak. Fast maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often needed. Large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects might be found, particularly on larger volume rivers. Scouting beforehand is advised for inexperienced rapid runners. Injuries while swimming are rare and self rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims. Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class III-” or “Class III+” respectively
Class IV river rapid ratings are intense and powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. The rapids may feature large, unavoidable obstacles, waves and holes or tight passages needing fast maneuvers under extreme pressure. A fast and reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers. The class IV Rapids Ratings may require mandatory moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting is recommended the first time down. The risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Group assistance for rescue is often needed and requires experienced skills. A strong eskimo roll is highly recommended for kayakers. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated as “Class IV+”.
Class V river rapid ratings require the most experience and effort. Class V rapids are extremely long, many obstructions, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to risk. Class V Rapids may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, narrow chutes with complex, demanding routes. Class V Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. The eddies that exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach or hold your raft in. More difficult Class V rapids may combine several of these factors. Scouting is recommended and may be difficult. Swims are dangerous and rescue is often difficult even for teams of experts. Proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are a must before you attempt a class V river rapid. There is a large range of difficulty that exists beyond Class IV which makes the difficulty of Class V rapids very diverse.
Check out our selection of boats for ratings from flat water lakes to Class V river rapids.