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Maine Outdoors - Maine Whitewater Rafting


Maine Rapids Classifications

Whitewater rafting is a hugely thrilling experience, and can be fun for the entire family.  However, it pays to learn something about the kinds of rapids you will be navigating. Set forth below is the rapids classification system as stated by the American Whitewater Affiliation, from Class I to Class VI. To find all Maine rapids and their class levels click here.  Please be careful and do not undertake any whitewater adventure that exceeds your experience and comfort levels.

Class I - Easy

Fast moving water with riffles and small waves.  Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training.  Risk to swimmers is slight. Self-rescue is easy.

Class II - Novice

Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident with scouting.  Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily avoided by trained paddlers.  Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed.  Rapids at the upper end of this range are designated Class II+. 

Class III - Intermediate

Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe.  Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required.  Large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided.  Strong eddies and power current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers.  Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties.  Injuries while swimming are rare.  Self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required.  Rapids at the lower and upper ends of this range are designated Class III- and Class III+. 

Class IV - Advanced

Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water.  Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure.  A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest.  Rapids may require "must" moves above dangerous hazards.  Scouting may be necessary the first time down.  Risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult.  Group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills.  A strong eskimo roll is highly recommended.  Rapids at the lower and upper ends of this range are designated Class IV- and Class IV+.

Class V - Expert

Extremely long, obstructed or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk.  Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes.  Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness.  What eddies exist may be small, turbulent or difficult to reach.  At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined.  Scouting is recommended but may be difficult.  Swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts.  A very reliable eskimo roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential.

Class VI - Extreme and Exploratory

These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger.  The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible.  For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions.



2015 Dead River Whitewater Releases

For whitewater release info call the Kennebec Water Power Company FLow Line at (800) 557-3569.



Maine Rafting Association & Directories


Maine Rafting Association

Description: Association of Maine professional whitewater outfitters.  Members offer trips on the Kennebec, Penobscot and Dead Rivers.  Website offers brief river descriptions (with rapids classifications) and additional information.