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A Quick Guide to Whitewater Rapids
River conditions can vary widely and unpredictably. The following ratings were developed to give those unfamiliar with a river a feel for what they are getting into--before they get into it.
- Class I: Flat water, some current.
- Class II: Small waves.
- Class III: Big waves, requires maneuvering through "hydraulic holes" in which the water breaks back on itself over a rock.
- Class IV: Big waves, many rocks, and very fast, powerful water. Requires precise maneuverability. Not fun to swim in if you make a mistake.
- Class V: Pushing the limits of navigability, should be done only by experts. Extremely steep gradient of river: 30- to 40-foot drops. Mistakes or capsizing will result in injury or possibly death.
- Class VI: Pushing the absurd. Paddlers on the West Coast define it as not runnable. Those on the East recommend it only for experts, lunatics, or both. Injury or death is a distinct possibility.
We've started a library of "Living Footnotes" for this section, and welcome your suggestions and your URLs to make it more useful. Use our customized Lycos search to linkthink your way around the web, or feel free to consult the experts about the above topic.
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