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Class I-VI: The International Scale of River Difficulty

February 22, 2017

Even if you’re new to white water rafting, you may have heard rapids identified by one of six classes (i.e. Class I-VI). This is a system called the International Scale of River Difficulty, which allows rafters to rate the difficulty of either a stretch of river or a single rapid.

Outdoor Rafting Adventures leads guided trips down the Pigeon River, which features Class I-IV rapids. Here’s a brief rundown of each class, so you can better understand the scale.

Class I: Easy

Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Very few obstructions, all of which are visible and easily avoided with minimal training. The risk to swimmers is small, and self-rescue is easy. In other words, boring.

Class II: Novice

Rapids with wide, clear channels that are readily apparent without scouting or prior research. You might have to maneuver yourself from obstructions every now and then, but basic training will allow you to do so with ease.

Class III: Intermediate

Now we get to the fun part. These are rapids with moderate, irregular waves that may be difficult to avoid. Good boat control is often necessary to maneuver through tight passages — but with an experience guide, even these shouldn’t be a problem. In large-volume rivers, you’ll encounter strong eddies and powerful current effects.

Class IV: Advanced

Intense, powerful, but predictable rapids. These sometime require precise handling of the boat. Narrow passageways and a few quick turns might be necessary.

Note: the Pigeon River does not feature rapids above a Class IV; therefore, Outdoor Rafting Adventures does not offer its guests Class V or VI rapids.

Class V: Expert

Extremely long, obstructed and violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and/or holes. Scouting is recommended but may be difficult. What few eddies may be small, turbulent or difficult to reach.

Class VI: Extreme and Exploratory Rapids

Very few people ever attempt Class VI rapids. They’re difficult, unpredictable and dangerous. The consequences of errors are severe and rescue may be impossible.

Finally, it’s important to remember that our guides know the Pigeon River like the back of their hands — every single nook and cranny. They’ve made hundreds and hundreds of trips down the river, safely guiding dozens of guests each and every day. They’ll instruct you clearly and deliberately, ensuring you and your fellow rafters have a fun, memorable and safe experience.

Book your white water rafting adventure now →

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