O.A.R.S. Boats and River Ratings

Rating Levels for Whitewater Rapids

Choosing the right level or Class of whitewater for your O.A.R.S. adventure is the first step in ensuring your adventure experience is both enjoyable and fun.

Class I: Swift current with riffles and small waves. Few obstacles, all obvious and easily avoided.
Ideal for: Children aged four and older, first-timers, seniors.

Class II: Easy rapids with wide-open channels and medium-sized waves. Some maneuvering may be
necessary to avoid obstacles. Generally, children four years and older may experience Class II rapids.
Ideal for: Children aged four and older, first-timers, all adults.

Class III: Moderate rapids with irregular, medium- to large-sized waves. Waves large enough to cause a boat to capsize may be present but can be avoided. Quick maneuvering may be required to avoid obstacles. Generally, children seven years and older may experience Class III rapids.
Ideal for: Children aged seven and older, beginners to intermediates looking for manageable thrills.

Class IV: Powerful rapids featuring boulder gardens, large waves and/or small waterfalls. Quick and precise maneuvering is essential to successful runs. Prior Class III experience is recommended, although aggressive first-timers looking for a challenge are generally accepted. Minimum ages will vary from 12 to 16 years.
Ideal for: Adventurous individuals, intermediates or aggressive beginners looking for a challenge.

Class V: Intense and violent rapids with steep drops, waterfalls, massive waves and extremely constricted channels. Rapids may require “critical” maneuvering above dangerous hazards. Prior Class IV experience is required. In some cases participants must pass a physical fitness/swimming test administered by our guides at the river.
Ideal for: Experienced paddlers and hard-core adventurers. On some rivers you’ll be required to take a physical fitness/swimming test.

River and Rapid Ratings for the Grand Canyon
Canyon rapids are rated on a 1-10 scale. Flat water is 1 while tough rapids like Lava Falls or Crystal can be rated 10 at certain water levels. A 10 rating in the canyon is roughly equivalent to a Class V in the standard river scale.

  Print This Page Print

Choosing Your Boats and Your Level of Adventure...

For modern explorers and legendary pioneers alike, it is the journey that counts, not the destination. At O.A.R.S., we offer a variety of paddling craft, each delivering a unique and memorable river-based experience for your journey.

The O.A.R.S. Fleet of Boats

Oar Raft
The O.A.R.S. flagship, oar rafts carry the bulk of the gear on most of our multi-day adventures. Your guide pilots the raft with long oars from a center-mounted aluminum frame. Ample deck space allows for lounging in calm stretches, sturdy weight and width give your guide confidence to hit the big waves head-on. (Three to five passengers)

Paddle Raft
The sportiest of crafts we put on the water, everybody handles a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the rear. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and team work begets success. Helmets required. (Four to eight passengers)

Paddle Raft with Oar-Assist
The most agile of any boat in the O.A.R.S. fleet, your guide powers the raft with two hefty oars on a rear-mounted frame, while the crew wields singlebladed paddles up front for added horse-power. Helmets required. (Four to eight passengers)

Dories are the kings of big volume rivers like the Colorado and the Salmon. These rigid boats were first used commercially in the Grand Canyon by writer/conservationist/river guide Martin Litton. Hard-hulled and ultra-buoyant, dories shoot through rapids and make wave trains feel like roller coasters. Your guide navigates from the center with two long oars. (Fits three to five passengers)

Motorized Snout Raft
Our stand-alone motor rig, this 22-foot pontoon craft is used on our 4-day Cataract Canyon trips. Ride up front for the biggest hits, or sit in the rear for a more mild ride. (Fits about eight passengers)

Inflatable Kayak
Also known as Duckies, inflatable kayaks are a boat option on many of our Class III river trips. Inflatable kayaks float low to the water, putting you in touch with the pull of the current and splash of every wave. On most trips, double and single inflatable kayaks are available, depending on group size. 12 years is the minimum age in Class III rapids, 7 years for Class II rapids, helmets always required. (Cockpit has room for one or two)

Sea Kayak
The ultimate flat water explorer—at home in open seas or inches from shore. Stealthy, quiet and quick, sea kayaks are the premier platform for wildlife viewing. From alpine lakes in Wyoming to island hopping in Baja or Galapagos, sea kayaks are a low-impact way to get out on the water. Generally two-person kayaks are provided, single kayaks may be available upon request.

Whitewater Kayak
Ideal for the solo river runner or avid playboater, hard shell kayaks offer the ultimate in performance and maneuverability in just about any type of whitewater - used for our whitewater kayak instructional courses in Idaho.

Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP)
Rigid like a surfboard, but inflatable like a raft, stand up paddleboards are 10-feet long and surprisingly stable at close to three-feet wide. Hop on a SUP to turn stretches of calm, flat water into an active adventure! (Fun for one paddler at a time)

Sign up for ENews

Get news, special offers and fascinating articles with the Watermark enewsletter

First Name

Last Name

E-mail Address

Note: All fields are required




Gift Cards


Sister Sites

Join us

Company Info

O.A.R.S. is an author ized concessioner of Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon and Grand Te ton National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument.
Outside Travel Awards 'Best Outfitter' Runner Up National Geographic Adventure Magazine - Best River & Sea Outfitter on Earth As Featured On 50 Tours of a Lifetime - National Geographic Traveler Mindy Gleason, O.A.R.S. Reservations Manager Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist 2007-2013 (River Rafting) Best of the Bay Area Winner

For consecutive years, O.A.R.S. has been named the "Best River & Sea Outfitter on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure and one of the top two outfitters in the world by Outside Magazine in its annual Active Travel Awards recognition program. In multiple years, O.A.R.S.trips have been honored as "50 Tours of a Lifetime" by National Geographic Traveler and since 2007, Condé Nast Traveler has recognized Mindy Gleason, O.A.R.S. Reservation Manager and International Adventure Travel Consultant, as Condé Nast Traveler's standalone Top Travel Specialist in the River Rafting category.

Questions about trips or making reservations? Contact info@oars.com or call 800-346-6277 in the USA or Canada or 1-209-736-4677 if outside the USA or Canada.
O.A.R.S. Companies Inc.,
PO Box 67, Angels Camp, CA 95222