River Classes

Rivers in and around Jasper National Park

Riv­er dif­fi­cul­ty is rat­ed using the six part Inter­na­tion­al Scale of Riv­er Clas­si­fi­ca­tion Sys­tem. Indi­vid­ual rapids are called class­es, while sec­tions are called grades.

This rat­ing sys­tem is a ref­er­ence to gen­er­al guide of rivers and is not intend­ed for peo­ple who does not have pad­dling expe­ri­ence.  Do not try boat­ing these rivers with­out expe­ri­ence or an expe­ri­enced guide.

Class I    Easy rapids, rif­fles and small, reg­u­lar waves. Pas­sages are clear, easy to find, and require only ele­men­tary maneu­ver­ing to enter. Obsta­cles are eas­i­ly seen and avoid­ed. Sharp bends are sim­ple to nego­ti­ate. Suit­able for novices in all boats.

Class II    Rapids with some eddies, tur­bu­lence, and waves up to 3 feet high. Obsta­cles may require some maneu­ver­ing. And there may be some holes and a few obstruc­tions in the main chan­nel. Res­cues easy. Mod­er­ate cur­rent and fre­quent eddies per­mit stops in many places. Chan­nel is straight for­ward and read­i­ly rec­og­nized. Suit­able for inter­me­di­ate open canoe, novice closed canoe or white water boat with inter­me­di­ate accom­pa­ni­ment. Best with a cer­ti­fied riv­er guide.


Class III    More dif­fi­cult rapids, requir­ing a good deal of maneu­ver­ing around obsta­cles. Scout­ing may require to find the cor­rect route. Some eddies may be strong, and fair­ly pow­er­ful holes and tur­bu­lence may be encoun­tered if the opti­mum route is missed. Waves of up to 5 feet. Small falls. Res­cue not too dif­fi­cult for com­pe­tent par­ties. Eddies may be small and hard to get into, but there are stop­ping places beyond all dan­ger spots. Class 3 cov­ers a mul­ti­tude of sit­u­a­tions, hav­ing per­haps the widest range of dif­fi­cul­ty of any rat­ing. Suit­able for advanced pad­dlers in white water and closed boats. Best with a cer­ti­fied riv­er guide.


Class IV Dif­fi­cult rapids, chal­leng­ing for strong boaters with con­sid­er­able expe­ri­ence. High, irreg­u­lar waves, pow­er­ful , pow­er­ful eddies, and strong cross­cur­rents will be encoun­tered, along with dif­fi­cult maneu­ver­ing. Obstruc­tions in the main chan­nel. Scout­ing is gen­er­al­ly manda­to­ry, and strong teams are required to make suc­cess­ful res­cue rea­son­ably like­ly. Big drops, Falls, and holes. Rest spots and land­ing often irreg­u­lar­ly spaced and fair­ly dif­fi­cult to enter. Suit­able for advance pad­dlers in closed canoes and white water boats. Not suit­able for open canoes! Best with a cer­ti­fied riv­er guide.

Class V    Extreme­ly dif­fi­cult rapids which are treat­ed with respect even by teams of experts who are capa­ble of run­ning them, Long, con­tin­u­ous, tur­bu­lent white water with irreg­u­lar pow­er­ful waves, cross­cur­rents, eddies, white eddies, and holes. Best course may be dif­fi­cult to pick out even from shore. And a per­fect run will still require encoun­ter­ing severe tur­bu­lence direct­ly. Res­cues very dif­fi­cult. Extreme­ly haz­ardous for any but a prac­ticed team of well-equipped experts. Suit­able for expert pad­dlers only!

Class VI    The lim­it of nav­i­ga­bil­i­ty for the very best boaters run­ning in the ide­al con­di­tions. All the above dif­fi­cul­ties extend­ed to their lim­it. Can­not be attempt­ed with­out some risk to life, even by team of experts. Near­ly impos­si­ble and very dan­ger­ous. Suit­able for teams of expert white water pad­dlers, at favor­able water lev­els and with ade­quate pro­vi­sion for res­cue.

Snake Indi­an

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