What You Need to Know About River Classifications

The Southeast provides some amazing spots for whitewater rafting. The Ocoee River and the Nantahala River offer some of the best adventures in the United States, and they are definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for an exciting adventure.

While planning your trip, you’ve probably noticed the classifications for rivers and rapids, but do you really know what these numbers mean?

We’ve put together this little guide to help you determine which rivers are best for you based upon your skill level and experience.

Rivers for BeginnersRiver Classifications

If you’re totally new to whitewater rafting, you’ll want to look for a river with a lower classification. Class I and II rapids are your safest best if you’ve never been on the water before.

On a class I river, you can expect fast-moving water and small waves. Any obstacles in the water are easy to spot and avoid.

Slightly larger waves make class II rapids a bit more exciting, and you might need to maneuver around some rocks in the water.

With primarily class I and II with a single class III rapid at the end, the Nantahala River is perfect for newbies and kids who are over the age of 7 or weigh at least 60 pounds.

Intermediate Rivers

Intermediate rivers are best for those who have experienced a bit of rafting before or for adventurous beginners who will be hitting the water with a guide. Rivers with class III and IV rapids fall into the intermediate category. Class III rapids have stronger currents and irregular waves that may be difficult to dodge, and class IV rapids have large waves and require precise boat maneuvering.

The Ocoee River, home of the 1996 Olympic whitewater events, features the most continuous stretch of class III and IV rapids of any US river, and it is a popular destination that provides thrills for intermediate and experienced rafters alike.

Rafting for Experts

Only experienced, expert rafters should attempt class V rapids. With the proper knowledge and skills, rivers with class V rapids can be extremely dangerous, and you should never put your safety at risk for the sake of an adrenaline rush.

Ready for your next adventure? What are you waiting for? At Rolling Thunder River Company, we offer amazing adventures for rafters of all skill levels, and we would love to help you experience the adventure of a lifetime!