Even if you’re the type who’s always up for a challenge, it’s important not to get in over your head when you’re whitewater rafting. (If you get in over your head figuratively, you’re more likely to get in over your head literally when you’re out on the water!) Here’s what you should know about the whitewater classification scale before your whitewater rafting trip.
Whitewater Classification Scale: The Basics
Rivers are rated on a class scale that ranges from I to VI, with I being the calmest and VI being the most difficult to traverse. Here’s a brief description of each level.
Class I describes a river with little-to-no waves and a current that pulls the raft along at a calm, relaxing clip. If you’ve been on a scenic float tour, that’s about the same pace you can expect from Class I waters.
Class II waters are essentially easy rapids—waves may be up to three feet tall, but they’re easily spotted and channels are wide enough to discover without the need for scouting.
If you’re looking for a thrill without too much of a risk, Class III is for you. Sections of river that are Class III have waves that are up to four feet high and narrow passages. Expect to get wet!
Now we’re onto the classes that require a bit more experience to navigate. Class IV has difficult rapids in addition to narrow passages. There’s turbulent water and the stretches of rapids are long.
Class V waters have large waves, complex rapids, and you can expect your raft to spin and twist as you make your way downriver.
These are expert-level stretches of river that include extreme rapids that are essentially unrunnable and even the occasional waterfall. You won’t find any outfitters organizing trips here—they’re strictly for the most experienced daredevil adventurers.
It’s important to note that the whitewater classification scale is fluid. (No pun intended!) A long river may have sections that rate a Class I on the scale in flat valleys and others that are a Class VI near headwaters in more mountainous areas. Additionally, different times of year and different weather conditions may change the classification. After snow melts in the springtime and after large amounts of rainfall, a river may be a notch higher in the whitewater classification scale than under normal conditions.
Snake River Whitewater Classification
The stretch of Snake River used for Barker Ewing whitewater rafting trips is rated Class III. Some sections may be Class II and others a Class IV in times with a significant amount of run-off, but prior to your trip, we’ll alert you to current river conditions that you should be aware of.
With a Class III rating, you can expect a fun time out on the water—without the danger of a Class V or Class VI river. Class III is excellent for whitewater rafters of all ages and experience levels.