Guide to Whitewater Rafting Classes

Whitewater rafting is a sport for everyone from families looking for a little excitement to outdoor enthusiasts. The key to having a good time is choosing the right class of whitewater for you. Just as different groups of people may have different abilities and experience with whitewater rafting, there are different levels of whitewater. Choosing the best run for your group can be done with the help of an experienced rafting guide and will make your whitewater rafting trip more enjoyable.

There are six classes of whitewater rafting rapids: Class I-VI. Below is a description of each class so that you can determine the appropriate class for you.

Class I
Class I is the easiest of the classes of whitewater, with relatively calm water. Rafting a class I requires no experience with whitewater rafting. There aren't many obstructions, and the river is wide. Some whitewater rafting companies will allow small children, even as young as two-years-old, to be on a class I rafting trip.

Class II
Class II whitewater also run through wide channels and are for beginner paddlers. There may be some rocks or other obstructions, but they are easily avoided. Many whitewater rafting companies will start a beginner group out on class II whitewater.

Class III
Class III is for experienced paddlers. Class III whitewater may have rocks, waves and small drops. Class III requires heavy maneuvering, sometimes in a quick current. It is best to be in a group when rafting class III, in case a person should fall out and need assistance getting back to the raft.

Class IV
Class IV is for those experienced in whitewater rafting. It is an advanced run, often with waves, rocks and significant drops. Class IV generally requires scouting to avoid obstructions.

Class V
Class V is very difficult. Rapids in class V whitewater will be long and require expert maneuvering. Rapids may have large waves which can be difficult or impossible to avoid.  Eddies may be small or difficult to reach. Rescue may be difficult if a person should fall out of the raft.

Class VI
These are the most difficult rapids. Often class VI whitewater haven't been frequently traveled, meaning those who attempt it are taking a big risk. Rescuing a person thrown overboard may be impossible in class VI, as the river is unpredictable and highly dangerous. Only a group of experts should attempt a class VI.

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