The river classes are provided by the American Whitewater Affiliation along with our opinion for suitability on our trips.
Class I: Easy. Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy. Suitable for all ages and the physically challenged.
Class II: Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, are seldom needed. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated “class II+”. Suitable for same as class I.
Class III: Intermediate. rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; 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. Suitable for those who don't mind getting splashed, otherwise same as class I & II..
Class IV: Advanced. Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. a fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. Rapids may require “must’’ moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting may be necessary the first time down. Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. Suitable for those age 12 years and older, in excellent physical condition and comfortable with the prospect of swimming and self rescue in the river. Recommended for first timers on our trips.
Class V: Expert. Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. What eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended but may be difficult. Swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts. Because of the large range of difficulty that exists beyond class IV, class 5 is an open ended, multiple level scale designated by class 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, etc... Each of these levels is an order of magnitude more difficult than the last. Example: Increasing difficulty from class 5.0 to class 5.1 is a similar order of magnitude as increasing from class IV to class 5.0. Suitable for those 16 and older in excellent physical condition, pocessing effective and strong swimming skills. Requires a mandatory practice river swim prior to the trip and after a safety and self rescue lecture.
Class VI: Extreme and exploratory. These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. After a class VI rapid has been run many times, its rating may be