Whitewater Ratings

As you research  route descriptions in books, magazines and web sites, you will often find whitewater described in 'classes.'

For example, a rapid will be described as "class one" or "class two."  These ratings are a standard system used to describe the difficulty of a particular piece of whitewater.

What do they mean?

  • Class One
    Simple, straightforward sections of whitewater with a clearly visible 'path.'  Waves are small and technical skills required are minimal.  Can generally be negotiated by novice paddlers.
  • Class Two
    Whitewater that requires a bit more technical skill.  There is some maneuvering required to choose the correct path through the rapid, and skills such as ferrying or eddying in and out will be required.  Waves are moderate in size. Can generally be negotiated by paddlers with intermediate whitewater skills.
  • Class Three
    More difficult rapids which require a high degree of skill.  There may be multiple 'paths' through the section, and good judgment is required in choosing this path.  Paddling skills such as back-ferrying, front-ferrying and eddying in and out are definitely required.  Large waves present.  Reserved for those with high skill levels in whitewater paddling.  This is considered to be the highest classification which would ever be paddled on a wilderness trip.
  • Class Four
    Suitable only for adrenaline junkies with decided suicidal tendencies.  Normally paddled only in kayaks or covered canoes.  Well thought-out safety measures and rescue teams required.  Only to be attempted in specially-outfitted canoes with flotation and spray covers.  Don't even think of this on a wilderness trip - this is for the yahoos that make extreme paddling videos.