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 "One Hundred Foot Waterfalls and You - Deciphering the..." 
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Post "One Hundred Foot Waterfalls and You - Deciphering the..."
One Hundred Foot Waterfalls and You - Deciphering the Class System of Whitewater Rapids By Tim Shisler
by: Tim Shisler




Pick up any outdoor oriented magazine and the photos of whitewater rafting and kayaking are breathtaking. Outside Magazine this month (April 2006) features three daredevil kayakers pondering a stomach wrenching bottomless drop at the base of Victoria Falls in Zambia. It’s a class V+ on the international rapid scale and routinely the image first time rafters think of when thinking of what to expect during a whitewater expedition. Oh how different reality can be.

Internationally a ranging scale of 1 to 6 most prominently using roman numerals is used to classify rapids. Even though all rivers do not follow this system—the Colorado uses a 1-10 scale through the Grand Canyon—most outfitters rate their river trips by using the roman numerals. Below is a quick reference guide of each class level starting with the easy-of-the-easy while ending in raging sure-death defying drops.

Class I

Basic everyday flat water with a few ripples and possibly a dead tree floating by at a few inches per minute. This is most likely equivalent to your bathtub during a long hot soak. Most water fights, fishing and berry picking are done during these stretches giving rafters a chance to play around and catch their breath before the next set of rapids.

Class II

Things will be a bit bigger and you might need to make a move or two around an obstacle. Class II can look HUGE in a kayak but small in a raft. Most times Class II rapids are simple straight shots with minimal consequences. Getting stuck on a rock or bumping a few bushes might be the consequence for missing a move. Most starting rafters think these are class III rapids . . .oh how are they wrong.

Class III

A great way to start rafting, class III rapids are challenging, incorporating several moves and a few big waves to boot. Consequences remain minimal and beginner rafters can feel comfortable. Some guides get cocky and ease up a bit only to be spanked for their actions. Novices can also guide their own rafts down most of these rapids even though it might not be pretty.

Class IV

Intermediate to advanced, class IV rapids require multiple moves, have fast moving water, big waves and heavy consequences. These are great trips for more adventurous beginners and second time rafters. Explosive moments of pandemonium are usually enough to calm most adrenaline junkies. Also the first class of rapids that always requires helmets.

Class V

Serious S&^T. Class V rapids are like several class IV rapids put together. Miss one move at the top and you’re swimming a long boney sometimes-deadly rapid. They should only be attempted by those who have the highest level of athleticism and cool demeanor under pressure. Outfitters many times will require guests to go through a physical endurance test and/or have rafted with them several times previously in order to clear the trip.

Class VI

The cool, insane, mind-blowing stuff you see in magazines and extreme Xterra commercials. Lets just say Niagara Falls in a barrel. Most times not as much skill as luck is needed. But be careful people who have done them don’t like to hear that.

If this is your first time rafting take a second and call the outfitter to find out just what fitness level is required and just what to expect. Remember that rafting is fun and bigger is not always better, but if you have the bug to go big or go home pushing yourself is not always a bad thing.

Tim Shisler has been a river guide with Whitewater Excitement for the past four seasons. He is currently working as a freelance outdoor adventure writer and photographer.

About The Author
Whitewater Excitement has over 28 years whitewater rafting experience.and is considered to be California's premier American river rafting company. http://www.whitewaterexcitement.com.





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Thu Mar 03, 2011 3:43 pm
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