Rapid Classifications

Whitewater rafting involves stamina and knowledge of how a river flows. Rivers vary between difficulties, so while planning a rafting trip it’s important to know what level of difficulty you’re going to be  experiencing.

A global rapid classification system arranges river difficulties into six classes. The system is not exact as rivers have diverse characteristics, but is a great baseline to understand the river section you’re planning to run.

We offer many trips to fit all adventure levels. It’s important to know which difficulty will fit your group’s expectations. Attempting a river that is not fit for your skill level can be very dangerous and unsafe for you and those around you. From the mild meandering rapids on the East Fork Carson River to the adrenaline pumping whitewater of the Middle Fork American River, we want to show you the trip of a lifetime. Find the trip suited for you and contact us today at (530) 587-5777.


Moving water with current and small waves. Slow moving water with relatively few obstacles. Easily boated by  inexperienced paddlers or inner tubes. There are no major obstacles and a passable channel will be clearly defined. Low risk to swimmers.  


Rapids have bigger waves and more obstacles requiring basic maneuvering ability. There are no major obstacles and  a passable channel will be clearly defined. Those with little to no experience in rafting might benefit from assistance  in paddling and maneuvering to learn the proper way to raft. If swims occur, collisions with obstacles and waves are  possible yet most often swimmer will reach bottom of rapid easily. 


Moderate, irregular waves, hydraulics, holes, and cross currents that can be difficult to avoid. This level requires  complex maneuvers involving fast currents and good raft control in tight passages. Large waves and strainers can be  present but avoided. These rapids should have a guide instructing paddle commands in the maneuvering and  handling of the raft. Precise maneuvering is a requirement to insure passenger safety. Class III rapids may seem  easy to passengers who have been guided by experts. Intermediate and even advanced boaters sometimes run into  trouble on Class III rapids. Swimming through Class III rapids is not ideal but many who do have great stories to tell. Collisions with obstacles and dunked by waves are highly probable, rafters are shaken but typically OK.  


For advanced rafters. Generally steeper, longer, and more obstructed than Class III. Often technical runs require  precise lateral moves, unavoidable waves and constricted passages which demand fast maneuvers from experienced  rafters to negotiate the best route. Scouting should be done if unfamiliar and guides should be highly skilled to insure a  successful run. These rapids are powerful, but still predictable, requiring precise boat handling. If swimming, risk of  injury is more significant here because water conditions make self-rescue difficult.  


Routes are demanding, with long rapids that require a high level of fitness. Strong currents, big waves, boulders, and holes powerful enough to flip and hold boats, violent rapids with many obstructions. Class V rapids  may have one or more vertical drop. Advanced expedition style guiding skills are a must. This class requires the  proper equipment, extensive experience, and rescue skills. Scouting rapids is recommended for all who enter. The  extreme of whitewater boating. Swimming is not recommended. 


Often considered un-runnable as most of these rapids have never been attempted, or if attempted claimed lives or had little successes. They are extremely difficult, unpredictable and dangerous. All precautions have  to be taken at favorable water levels because the consequence of error is very severe and rescue may be impossible. Swimming or attempts often result in death.