River Ratings System

Rivers are rated by the most difficult rapids which appear on a particular run. A plus sign (+) after a rating indicates there may be one or more rapids with difficulty slightly above the level indicated. A river's level of challenge can change greatly with fluctuations in water levels. The ratings listed for the rivers on this web site are at the typical flows run through the rafting season. The actual water level on your trip may be higher (or lower) and the river correspondingly more demanding. If a trip cannot be run with a reasonable assurance of success, we will, with as much advance notice as possible, allow trip members to choose between a different river on the same date, or the same river on a different date.

Class I. Easy.

Waves small, passages clear; no serious obstacles.

Class II. Medium.

Rapids of moderate difficulty with passages clear.

Class III. Difficult.

Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks; eddies; rapids with passages clear though narrow, requiring expertise in maneuvering. Rivers include: Cache Creek, South Fork American, Lower Klamath, and the Rogue.

Class IV. Very Difficult.

Long rapids; waves powerful, irregular; dangerous rocks; boiling eddies; powerful and precise maneuvering required. Rivers include: Lower Kern, Upper Kern, Kaweah, Merced, North Fork Stanislaus, Tuolumne, Middle Fork American, North Fork American, Lower North Yuba, and the Upper Klamath. 

Class V. Extremely Difficult.

Exceedingly difficult, long and violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops; violent currents; very steep gradient. Paddlers must pass the Class V Paddler's Test, and have prior Class IV or better whitewater experience, preferably with Whitewater Voyages. Rivers include: Thunder Run (Kern River), Upper Kern Combo, Forks of the Kern, Cherry Creek / Upper Tuolumne, Upper North Yuba, Giant and Generation Gap, California Salmon, and Burnt Ranch Gorge.

Class VI. Unrunnable.

Just like it says - Don't even think about it!

P. Portage.

Boats must be carried along the river bank to get around an unrunnable stretch of river.