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How Difficult Is Whitewater Rafting In The Smoky Mountains?

August 21, 2013 April 3rd, 2020

Gatlinburg white water rafting

Many vacationers are eager to try whitewater rafting in the Smoky Mountains. However, rafting can be a rough sport, and visitors should match their skills to the features of the rapids to ensure that they enjoy their experience safely. A few tips will help rafters find the right level for their ability.

International Scale of River Difficulty

In order to clarify the difficulty that rafters might encounter in various bodies of water around the world, an International Scale of River Difficulty has been developed. The scale is used for a variety of water sports to allow users to choose levels of difficulty safely. However, these classifications can vary widely in various locations in the world. In the Smoky Mountains, U.S. designations are used.

Class I: Easy

The Class I designation is the easy type of rafting for beginners. The waves are small and there are few obstacles to encounter. This is generally the level recommended for people that have not rafted before or have little experience on water. Self-rescue is easy to accomplish.

Class II: Medium

Class II rapids are generally wide open and straightforward. Rocks and medium-sized waves can be maneuvered with a little skill. Group assistance for swimmers may be necessary.

Class III: Difficult

In a Class III run, irregular waves may be encountered that are moderately high. Tight passages and eddies are generally found. Self-rescue or group rescue may be needed. Large waves can be avoided.

Class IV: Very Difficult

Though the rapids in this class are intense, they are generally predictable. Precise handling is required. Paddlers may encounter large waves they cannot avoid. Rescue may require group assistance. The kayak roll may be necessary.

Class V: Extremely Difficult

Class V courses are long, rough and contain complex obstacles that can be dangerous even for experienced rafters. Durable equipment is important, and knowing the kayak roll is critical. Swimming can be hazardous.

Class VI: Class U

This highest level of classification is reserved for waters that are essentially unraftable. The waters may have extreme conditions that have not been attempted or present significant hazards for rafting. Rescue may be impossible.

At Smoky Mountain Outdoors, we have rapids that range from Class I to Class IV. Having multiple classes allows us to accommodate patrons of all ages and abilities who want to try whitewater rafting in the Smoky Mountains. We are committed to the highest level of safety. All of our guides are rigorously trained and certified in First Aid. Visit our Rafting Safety Guidelines to find out more about our standards.