When participating in whitewater sports (such as kayaking, canoeing, rafting, or paddle surfing,) it is best to have some idea of how easy or difficult the river can be. Using a class system ranging from "I" to "VI", the American Whitewater Association has created a standard system to do just so. Within each "Class" (or "Grade",) there are further ways to define difficulty by adding a "+" or "-" to the relative numerical grade. For instance "Class III-" being on the easier side of the spectrum and "Class III+" on the more difficult. Rivers are diverse and there are various influencing factors that can change so the plus and minus can show a fuller spectrum of what to expect from each river that has been classified. Although a river as a whole can be assigned into a specific grade, there may be aspects of the river's features that may be more difficult or easier so it is important to look at all the information provided. Now let us take a look at how each grade is classified:
Class I is defined by small waves, fast moving smooth waters. With gentle curves and few obstructions a Class I river is relatively low-risk and ideal for a beginners to approach.
Class II rivers are broad channels with rapid waves that can be several feet tall. These are easily discover-able without scouting. Compared to the previous class this kind of river can be a little more difficult and require some experience to maneuver around rocks or other minor obstacles. This may not be ideal for a first timer but rarely requires any group assistance.
Class III river rapids can have more sporadic and less predictable waves, the larger ones which can often be avoided. In large rivers stronger currents can be found and it is best for novices to scout these areas ahead of time. Usually one is able to swim on their own if rescue is needed but sometimes group assistance is needed. These kinds of rivers may require some tight turns or quick response to avoid ledges so it is best to have intermediate training at least.
Class IV river rapids start to get more dangerous and intense. They can be difficult and the water can be turbulent but they are generally predictable over-all. Despite this predictability canoes are not able to run these kinds of rapids without a properly equipped deck and flotation devices. Anyone looking to run this class of rapid is advised to have advanced experience so that they are able to quickly take actions to avoid dangerous hazards.
Class V rapids are characterized by long brutal rapids that can be very dangerous to any paddler. There may be numerous trials to overcome, intense drops resulting in large waves, intricate and crowded chutes, and possibly very few minor eddies that may be hard to get to. Much of these kind of river may not be scout-able and it is necessary that one comes prepared with the proper safety equipment, level of experience and planned precautions in case of emergencies as even a seasoned swimmer would be in very problematic and dangerous waters. While the other classes are simple defined further by a plus or minus symbol, Class V rapids are so challenging that they have their own unique sub-classification system that starts at 5.0 then the next larger order of magnitude would be defined as 5.1 and so on which each higher value showing a significant increase of difficulty.
Class VI rapids are extremely hard to navigate. Even the most experienced experts would only try to maneuver this kind of river at a time when the most dangerous factors are at their lowest levels and the weather is favorable. To make a small error can be life threatening as even with the help of a group rescue can look very bleak in case of emergencies. To re-iterate, this is only for the highest level experts and should not be attempted by anybody with any less experience.
The Snake-River Rapids of Wyoming normally range from a difficulty of II to III but in the June time the waves can work their way up to Class IV. During this time certain minimum age limits may apply. Over this 8 mile stretch most of the route is rates as a Class III difficulty except for the initial Station Creek and Blind Canyon rapid which is typical at a Class II.
"Our river guide Kevin was so knowledgeable and funny! He made it a great time and would request him when we go Snake River Rafting again!"
-Sal L. from Tempe AZ
"The best rafting trip I've been on in. I've been rafting in Costa Rica and Colorado. This was by far the best rafting in Wyoming"
-Graham E. from Tucson AZ
"I had a sore foot and was worried about hurting it further when we hit the Big Kahuna. Our guide Kevin made me feel comfortable and promised he would watch me and protect my foot. He did and I had a blast rafting down the Snake River in Wyoming.
-Mark L. from Cody WY
"I was afraid of the fast rapids (especially near Lunch Counter) but having a professional white water rafting guide really helped me through one of the most fun experiences I've ever been on!
-Kari from Indiana
"The views floating down the river and our drop off spot being so close to the Grand Tetons made this the best white water trip I've ever been on. Plus, I really didn't want to get my hair wet and our river guide Kevin made sure I sat in right place so I was relatively dry"
-Arlyn B from Canada