No matter if it is your first time in a raft or your fiftieth time, whitewater rafting can provide thrills for people of all ages and skill levels. But knowing your skill level is important when choosing your rafting destination.
Knowing how rivers are classified is the first step. Rivers are rated using a class scale to define both the technicality and size of the whitewater. Class I rivers have a slower current, smaller and lower waves, and no obstructions. Often these are labeled as “Scenic Floats”. Class II rivers feature rapids up to three feet in height with wide channels and high visibility. Some light maneuvering is required. Class III features rapids up to four feet with narrower passages and the guarantee that water will come gushing into your raft. Moderate maneuvering is needed here. Navigating a class I-III rivers are not too difficult and ideal for younger children.
Class IV rivers are longer and feature more difficult rapids, narrower passages, and turbulent waters. Precise maneuvering is required. Class V is the highest level and most difficult with more complexity and larger amounts of water, in addition to the challenges of a Class IV rapid. Class V rivers should only be navigated by experts and many rafting companies will not even take guests on Class V rapids.
If you are already familiar with the classification system, you are probably not a beginner, but you might not be an expert either. Chances are if you have not been formally trained or certified, but you have been whitewater rafting before, you might fall into the moderate or intermediate category. It really comes down to knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Many people who have been rafting before may not want a guide but guides are great for individuals of all levels of experience because they can offer navigation and safety information you may not otherwise be aware of. Tour companies can also give you additional information if you have questions. Using a guide or going on a tour through a company is your safest option, no matter your skill level.
Even if you are an expert, if you are in a group with beginners or moderate rafters, you should be mindful of everyone’s skill level in your group. Most rafts hold 8 people so the skill levels of each individual are important to know before trying to maneuver and navigate your way down a river.