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Rapid Classification System

Rapid Classification System


Whitewater rafting involves a lot of stamina and knowledge of how a river flows. Rivers can vary between difficulties, so when planning a rafting trip it’s important to know what level of difficulty you’re going to be experiencing.

There is a rapid classification system used to compare river difficulty that is arranged into six classes. The system is not exact as rivers don’t always fit easily into one category and a rafter’s experience and knowledge of a river might classify it as a different level of class, but it’s a good starting point for knowing what to expect from a river.

Knowing what you can expect from a river beforehand can determine how much fun you have on a rafting trip. Attempting a river that is not fit for your skill level can be very dangerous and unsafe for you and those around you. Using the rapid classification system can help you make the smart decision of what a good level is for you. New Mexico River Adventures is pleased to bring you exciting rafting trips in New Mexico. From Rio Grande rafting adventures, to trips along the Rio Chama, we want to show you the trip of a lifetime. Find the trip suited for you and contact us today at 505-983-7756!


Fast moving water with small waves. Little training is required and there is little risk to swimmers. This level of rapids is perfect for floating down the river in a tube.


Involves wide, clear channels that are easy to maneuver. Assistance is rarely needed, although those with little to no experience in rafting might benefit from assistance in paddling and maneuvering to learn the proper way to raft.


Moderate, irregular waves that can be difficult to avoid. This level requires complex maneuvers involving fast currents and good raft control in tight passages. Large waves and strainers can be present but avoided, and most of these rivers will have a guide assisting in the maneuvering and handling of the river.


For advanced rafters. These rivers are powerful, but still predictable, requiring precise boat handling. Large, unavoidable waves and constricted passages demand fast maneuvers from experienced rafters. Risk of injury is more significant here because water conditions make self-rescue difficult.


Involves violent rapids that are long and obstructed. Routes are more demanding, with long rapids that require a high level of fitness. This class requires the proper equipment, extensive experience, and rescue skills.


The highest level on the rapid classification system. Most of these rapids have never been attempted. They are extremely difficult, unpredictable and dangerous. All precautions have to be taken at favorable water levels because the consequence of error is very severe and rescue may be impossible.