Carolyn J. Upshaw, a business management graduate of Cincinnati Technical School, enjoys avid outdoor pursuits. She maintains a wide variety of outdoor interests, from leisurely beachcombing to more adventurous activities like parachuting. Carolyn J. Upshaw is especially fond of canoeing and kayaking.
Any individual planning a river expedition, whether it be by kayak, canoe, or as part of a rafting team, should review the Whitewater Rapid Classification System before setting out. The internationally recognized rating system informs kayakers of the level of physical danger that may be posed by a river, as well as the degree of skill and experience individuals should have before attempting a river. Before reviewing the classification system, individuals must understand that weather or the passing of time can change the rating of a specific waterway, and that most rivers vary from one rating to the next over the course of a run. Similarly, the rating system does not take kayaker enjoyment into consideration, only safety and skill level.
The Whitewater Rapid Classification System begins with Class I and continues through Class VI. Class I rivers have a light current and feature little to no obstructions, such as rocks or fallen branches. Class II and III rivers pose more difficulty, as currents quicken and both obstacles and river width force riders to perform various maneuvers. Class IV rivers are the highest rated rivers that can be attempted by lesser-experienced kayakers, though they are in no way safe for beginners and require scouting beforehand.
Lastly, Class V and VI rapids are reserved for only the most skilled and knowledgeable river enthusiasts. In fact, Class VI rivers are not recognized as raftable by commercial operations. In addition to high, sudden rapids and dangerous obstacles, these waterways are noted for the difficulty involved in rescuing an individual who has fallen overboard. Rivers of both classes require extensive scouting before entering the water.