White water rafting is an activity that can be fun for families or for adventurous individuals. However, anyone that participates in this sport needs to understand the classification levels of the river where they want to raft. It is also important to note that white water rafting is different from taking a float trip. As a rafter, you will be expected to paddle, while floating doesn't require any direct involvement with the water. 

Tour companies expect you to register for a trip that matches your level of experience. In most cases, you won't be expected to pass a test before joining a rafting excursion, but you should exercise wisdom and gain experience on easy courses before joining an advanced group. 

Classes I &II

These excursions take place on the calmest water. You can expect tiny ripples in the water and level stretches of the river. Class II trips usually involve small waves and a bit more maneuvering in the water than Class I excursions, but both levels are appropriate for beginners.

Class III

The strength of the current increases for Class III rafting trips; these trips are usually designated as intermediate. The waves are larger, and additional skill is required to navigate the raft through narrow channels. You can expect to get wet on these excursions because the waves are higher and stronger, and water often comes over the raft. Some rafting companies designate these runs as either Class III- or Class III+, depending on the level of skill that is required. Class III+ runs are more advanced than their Class III- counterparts. According to the experts at noc.com, Class III rapids pose little risk of injury, and you should be able to rescue yourself if you fall overboard.

Class IV

Class IV rafting trips are for advanced, experienced participants. You should expect high, unpredictable waves, unexpected drops, and a significant number of obstructions that require skilled maneuvering. Because of the force of the river, participants that are ejected from the raft generally require assistance from other members of the group in order to regain their seats. Many rivers involve upper and lower ranges of difficulty for Class IV rapids.

Class V

The most challenging and treacherous river trips for everyday rafters are those which are designated as Class V. These excursions involve very active water that often includes violent waves, drops that are nearly vertical, large obstructions, and currents that are so forceful that rescue is difficult. Don't be surprised to discover that many tour companies require Class V participants to pre-qualify by demonstrating their skill in the water. 

Class VI

Class VI rafting is reserved for experts. However, very few seasoned professionals ever attempt these rapids because the water is simply too treacherous, and loss of life is a distinct possibility.

This classification system has been standardized and is known as the International Scale of River Difficulty. As a result, you can expect similar water conditions for each class of river in all regions of the country.