River grades

River grades are a way of classifying rivers and rapids by their level of technical skill required and risk of injury. The majority of the rivers run by the Tasmania University White Water Rafting Club fall into Grade I to III and are suitable for beginner and intermediate rafters.

Occasionally we run trips on rivers with Grade IV or V rapids but we generally ‘portage’ these rapids (carry the boats around the rapid or line them through and walk to the bottom) as they are considered too dangerous to run. Some rivers have Grade IV rapids that are safe to run but these trips are for more advanced members and we require highly skilled guides for these rivers.

Grade I: Easy, smooth water with clear passages; occasional sand banks and gentle curves.

Grade II: Moderate. Medium-quick water and rapids with regular waves; clear and open passages between rocks. Manoeuvring required.

Grade III: Moderately difficult. Numerous irregular, high waves; rocks and eddies with passages clear but narrow and requiring experience to run. If rapids are unknown, visual inspection is required.

Grade IV: Difficult. Long and powerful rapids and standing waves; souse holes and boiling eddies. Precise and powerful manoeuvring is required and visual inspection is mandatory. Advanced preparation for possible rescue is necessary.

Grade V: Extremely difficult. Long and violent rapids that follow with no interruption. River filled with obstructions. Violent current and extremely deep gradient. Rescue preparations are mandatory. Can only be run by top experts in specially-equipped whitewater canoes, decked craft and kayaks.

Grade VI: Extraordinarily difficult. Paddlers face constant threat of death due to extreme danger. Not recommended for anyone except Olympic-level rafters.

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