California White Water Rafting Trips:
River Difficulty Ratings

Our California Rivers are rated from Class III to Class VI based on the International Scale of River Difficulty. A plus sign (+) after a rating indicates there may be one or more rapids with difficulty slightly above the level indicated.

How do you match your experience level with a river class level?

  • First-time and veteran rafters alike thrive on:
    Class III, III-IV and some Class IV
  • Class IV+ on the other hand, requires at least one previous trip.
  • Class V usually requires two or more previous trips (especially for paddlers) .
  • Class I
  • Class II
  • Class III
  • Class III-IV
  • Class IV
  • Class IV+
  • Class V
  • Class VI
  • Portage

Class I - Easy

Waves small, passages clear, no serious obstacles.


Class II - Medium

Rapids of moderate difficulty with passages clear.


Class III - Beginner

Exciting but not difficult. Big runnable waves, swift current with obstacles easy to miss. Fun for everyone - first-timers and veterans alike. Rivers include:


Class III-IV - Beginner-Intermediate

A blend of Class III & IV. Generally begins with Class III and works up to Class IV. Ideal for both first-timers and veterans. Rivers include:


Class IV - Intermediate

Long rapids, big drops, numerous obstacles. Powerful and precise maneuvering required. Excellent for experienced rafters and adventurous first-timers. Rivers include:


Class IV+ - Intermediate - Advanced

High intensity whitewater. Steeper more technically intricate rapids requiring strong, vigorous paddling. Good physical condition required. Previous experience recommended. Rivers include:


Class V - Advanced

Maximum intensity whitewater. Extremely long, complicated rapids with very steep gradient requiring strong and precise paddling and expertise in maneuvering. Good physical condition essential. Previous paddle rafting experience strongly recommended. Class V Warm-Up and Class V Training Talk required. Rivers include:


Class VI - Unrunnable

Just like it says - Don't even think about it! – Niagara Falls is a VI - Runnable only in the movies.



Boats must be carried along the river bank in order to circumvent an unrunnable stretch of river.


" I went on the two day rafting trip on May 15 & 16 down the North Fork of the Yuba River. I had so much fun on this trip. I didn't think that taking a ride down a river could be so much fun. I think that your staff is great and professional. Arlo was my trip leader and also my rafting guide. He was professional and very thorough with with all the rafting and safety procedures. I was a bit apprehensive about riding the Maytag Falls... Arlo was so laid back and so calming he made the ride a success. I never knew that a class V could be such a confidence booster. It is such a refreshing thing to think that there are people who enjoy doing the job that they do. The food was great and they are great entertainers as well. Can't wait to go again!! "
- Lisa Pimentel
Novato, California

" The 'Crawford Clan' of five had an awesome time on the North Fork of the American with Dan as our guide. Ian, Dan, Peter, and Glen were all excellent guides, friendly folks, and incredible people to hang out with. Our four boat posse only saw one other raft on the water all day, the water level was high and intense, and our guides took care of us while having fun right along with us. The offering of a free campsite was perfect for us city dwellers, and only added to our incredible journey. Chris, Zack, Brock, Monique, and our planner Mike all thank you kindly! "
- Chris
San Francisco, California

" We took your 1-day South Fork American raft trip and had a wonderful time. Our group leader did a great job of instructing and organizing us, but he was also instrumental in creating the friendly atmosphere that surrounded us the entire day. Thank you! "
- Marilyn Skinner

" Best time ever ever ever ever in my entire life!!! Seriously, that was just so much fun. Loved it. I've just been to the Kaweah River two days ago but I can't wait to go back there. The guides were just incredibly awesome people. Brook, you are so funny, always smiling and everything, even if we had to pull the raft back for an hour but hey, it's part of the fun experience. Hope to see you all very soon. "
- Liliane Idylle
Pasadena, California

" My daughters and I have just had the best vacation ever, thanks to the staff of Whitewater Voyages! We were on your Tuolumne River trip on August 26-28. The weather was perfect and the river and side streams were absolutely incredible. But what made it all work was the teamwork of the guides and chef. Our heartfelt thanks to all of these marvelous people for making our trip truly memorable. "
- Ann C. Lynch

" Awesome trip!!! This was our first time rafting and we had a great time. Our guide, Pat, was funny, informative, safety-conscious, and a great cook. Oh, and thanks for plucking my wife from what she was sure would be her watery demise - and then making sure she felt secure enough to charge Tunnel Chute the next day. That was key. We're definitely going with Whitewater Voyages next time. They were so good that I can only imagine that all the other rafting companies must suck! p.s. I'M SAUCY!!! "
- Curtis and Pam Fong
Corte Madera, California

Other River Trips You Might Like:

South Fork American River Fun Run
Class III-IV - 1 Day

Lower Kern River Jungle Run
Class III-IV - 1 Day

Lower Kern River Big Water
Class IV - 1 Day

Lower Kern River Southern Sierra Escape
Class III-IV - 2 Days

Upper Kern River Snap, Crackle and Pop
Class III-IV - 1/2 to 1 Day

Kings River Mega Joy Ride
Class III+ - 2 Days

Merced River Foam Dancer
Class IV - 2 Day

Middle Fork American River Blaster
Class II-IV - 1 or 2 Days

Kaweah River Sequoia Shooter
Class IV+ - 1 Day

Kaweah River Sequoia Gateway
Class IV+ - 2 Day

Lower North Yuba Shangri-La
Class IV-V - 1 Day

North Yuba River Maytag Whirl
Class III-IV - 1 & 2 Days

Whitewater Guide School

Group Trips

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Whitewater Voyages
11252 Kernville Road, Kernville, CA 93238
Call Toll Free: 800-400-7238
The Leader in California White Water Rafting Trips Since 1975

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