Class II? Class V? What’s behind the Roman Numerals? Rapids are rated on a scale from I-VI based upon their difficulty, with Class I being the easiest and safest, and Class VI often considered to be too dangerous to run. Keep on reading below for more information on all the levels in between.
Class I (Beginner) – Moving water, with the occassional small wave or riffle.
Class II (Beginner – Intermediate) – Numerous small riffles and waves, and you may need to make a move to avoid getting stuck.
Class III (Intermediate) – Larger waves and riffles. A technical move may be required to keep you out of harm’s way.
Class IV (Intermediate – Advanced) – Large features in the current demand technical and precise maneuvering. There are likely hazards in the channel that must be avoided. Scouting is recommended for Class IV rapids you haven’t seen before.
Class V (Expert) – These rapids require an expert level of skill. Large, violent waves, hydraulic features, and/or exposed rocks in the channel work in tandem to create very narrow, precise, and often hazardous lines. Scouting is highly recommended if you have not seen a particular Class V rapid before.
Class VI (Unrunnable) – Considered to be so dangerous that they are impassable in a raft or kayak. Do not attempt to run a Class VI rapid.