River Water Classifications

Class I: (Easy)

Moving water with small disturbances on the surface and a few small waves. There is little danger to swimmers.

Class II: (Novice/Beginner)

Faster moving water with easily avoided rocks, holes, and waves. Danger to swimmers is still slight but care must be taken.

Class III: (Intermediate)

Fast moving water containing various currents, waves, rocks, and holes that require skillful maneuvering to avoid. Swimmers could be at risk and may require help.

Class IV: (Advanced)

Strong rapids, large waves, unpredictable currents, big holes, and dangerous obstructions requiring multiple maneuvers to get through or around. Swimmers are at risk and will require help to be rescued.

Class V: (Expert)

All of the characteristics of Class IV with the added danger of being longer and containing more continuous features that may not be avoided. There is serious risk to swimmers and others may be of no help.

Class VI: (Unrunnable)

Only a team of experts who carefully plan every aspect of this expedition would have hope of surviving these rivers and rapids.

Examples of River Class Levels in Missouri and Kansas

Water class level will vary by river section and water levels.

  • Current River is Class I with occasional II.
  • Eleven Point River is Class I and II.
  • Elk River is mostly Class II.
  • St Francis River is Class I to III, with possible IV in high water and V in flood.
  • Kansas River is Class I with very small spots of II.

Always plan your river trip to match you skill level, and go with experienced river paddlers with good safety practices and a knowledge of river paddling. If you live in the Kansas City area (Kansas or Missouri) learn paddling and safety skills by joining Paddle KC paddling club and attending frequent monthly events. We have a lot of fun, and visit a lot of different rivers!

Related Info

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Why Join Paddle KC

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