About Rivers & Rafts

About Rivers & Rafts
Erosive and gravity-loyal, rivers often offer the swiftest passage through a landscape, and people have attempted to navigate them for thousands of years. More recently, rafting river cascades has become one of the most popular extreme sports in the world.


Whitewater rivers are those broken with rapids, where the stream encounters steep gradients, boulders and other jams. Big rapids are typically found in the upper courses of rivers, where they are actively eroding highland terrain, but whitewater can be encountered on lower portions as well.


People have been traversing dangerous rivers on rafts for a long time. John Wesley Powell, for example, famously explored the Colorado River in 1869. Modern recreational rafting began to gain popularity when surplus inflatable life rafts came on the market after World War II.

River Ratings

By convention, rapids are rated by an international difficulty scale, ranging from modest, mostly safe riffles (Class I) to the extremely dangerous, near-unrunnable sections of Class VI rivers. A given river might shift classes depending on season and environmental conditions.


As the sport has matured, rafting options have expanded. Neophytes can sign up for highly secure guided trips, while experienced, adventurous boaters might tackle fearsome, never-run rivers in far-flung places. Whitewater trips can last an hour or many days.


People interested in rafting should familiarize themselves with the real danger that rivers present. If you're just starting out, hook up with a guided trip and stick to lower-class rapids until you're more experienced.

Article Written By Ethan Schowalter-Hay

Ethan Schowalter-Hay is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written for the "Observer," the Bureau of Land Management and various online publishers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.

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