A Guide to Whitewater Rafting Classification

Whitewater Rafting

Most whitewater rafting tours use the International Scale of River Difficulty to describe the river conditions and the difficulty involved in navigating it. This scale goes from 1 (very easy) to 6 (almost impossible). The levels are referred to as a ‘class’ or ‘grade’. The time it takes to pass a rapid can vary from just a few seconds to almost a minute.

Class I – “Relaxing”

Gently moving water with small waves and no serious obstacles. Not much maneuvering required.

Class II – “You’ll probably get splashed

Waves are bigger and more frequent, up to 3 to 4 feet in height. Simple manoeuvring will be needed to avoid rocks or other obstacles.

  • A great example of Class II and perfect family rafting is Cheakamus River, Whistler, BC.

Class III – “You’re gonna get wet!

Many rapids and large, less predictable waves, some may be approx 6ft. there may be small drops or waterfalls. Requires greater maneuvering of the raft. This is where true ‘whitewater’ begins.

Class IV – “You’ll get soaked!”

Lots of high, irregular waves and long rapids. There will also be rocks that need to be avoided. Difficult conditions that require scouting.

Class V – “Kinda scary – for adrenalin junkies only

Very difficult, long and violent rapids. Large, often unavoidable waves. Extremely difficult and dangerous conditions.

Class VI -“Are you crazy?!”

Unraftable. Almost never attempted.

Remember though, this scale is just a guide and the conditions in any river change hugely in different seasons and can even change considerably overnight.

Although high water usually makes rapids more difficult and dangerous, sometimes it actually makes a river easier because some of it’s features may get covered.

Planning a trip to Whistler or Banff? Activity Bookers has a great selection of Whistler rafting trips and Banff rafting tours.  Plan your trip and book securely online.


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