Ratings for Rapids

Q: What do the class ratings of the various trips mean?

A: From the Safety Code of the American Whitewater Association (Go to their Website). Here is a description of the various classes.

class i: easy. fast moving water with riffles and small waves. few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy.

class ii: novice. straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed. rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated “class ii+”.

class iii: intermediate. rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims. rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “class iii-” or “class iii+” respectively.

class iv: advanced. intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure. a fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. rapids may require “must” moves above dangerous hazards. scouting may be necessary the first time down. risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high, and water conditions may make self-rescue difficult. group assistance for rescue is often essential but requires practiced skills. a strong eskimo roll is highly recommended. rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated “class iv-” or “class iv+” respectively.

class 5: expert. extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk. drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. what eddies exist may be small, turbulent, or difficult to reach. at the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. scouting is recommended but may be difficult. swims are dangerous, and rescue is often difficult even for experts. a very reliable Eskimo roll, proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential. because of the large range of difficulty that exists beyond class iv, class 5 is an open ended, multiple level scale designated by class 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, etc… each of these levels is an order of magnitude more difficult than the last. example: increasing difficulty from class 5.0 to class 5.1 is a similar order of magnitude as increasing from class iv to class 5.0.

class vi: extreme and exploratory. these runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. the consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible. for teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. after a class vi rapids has been run many times, it’s rating may be changed to an appropriate class 5.x rating.

Santa Fe Rafting
(888) 988.4914
(505) 988.4914
Welcome to the 2014 Rafting Season

Hey there everyone in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico looking for a rafting adventure. We at Santa Fe Rafting are opening up our doors for the 2014 season! Our guides have been out and about on the Rio Grande all spring rafting the Racecourse and the Lower Taos Box in the sun, the rain, and the snow. Now they are ready to give you the rafting experience of a lifetime! The weather is warming up and the river is flowing, so whether you are already here and ready to go, or coming to visit New Mexico this summer, we have the Taos Rafting and Santa Fe Rafting experiences that you are looking for!


We have rafting trips for anyone and everyone looking for a fantastic experience in the outdoors. Whether you want a half day of relaxation, to 3 days of spectacular experiences, we have the right trip for you. Our Lower Gorge float trip is a fantastically relaxing half day floating through the Orilla Verde Recreation area in the newly created Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. Just downstream is the world famous Racecourse section of the Rio Grande where you will paddle through many fun class three rapids. If it sounds better to you to really get out there, then we have just the trip. Our 3 day Chama trip combines incredible scenery with five star camping in one of New Mexico’s wild and scenic river canyons.


The river is currently a bit too low to run the stunning rapids of the Lower Taos Box, but we are hoping that we will see enough water come down from the mountains to allow us to run this genuine gem of the southwest, so stay tuned if you are interested in class 4 whitewater!


Some of you may be wondering what our season will look like this year. Well, we have been keeping a close eye on the weather this winter, and though we have seen drought conditions in New Mexico, there is still a good amount of snow in southern Colorado that we hope will head this way as the days get longer, and possibly even more to come in the high mountains. Conditions look good to give us a full season running the great New Mexico whitewater of the Rio Grande. Though we will probably not see high water like in some years past, we are lucky to have family friendly sections of whitewater that are fun no matter what the flow. So bring out the kids, or grandma and grandpa, because our family rafting trips are second to none!


We are also very excited for our 2014 Raft Guide School. If you have ever thought about being a river guide, then this is your chance! This is one of the few jobs where you can spend your work days out on the river, in the bright New Mexico Sun. Our River guide training program lasts about a week on the Racecourse section of the Rio Grande, and will qualify you to be a class 3 River Guide. We work hard and we have a lot of fun, if you think this job might be for you, then call: 505-988-4914 . You don’t have to want a job to come learn about the river. We love to show people about the river so much that you are welcome in our guide school even if you just want to know how to raft for your own purposes.

Spring Break

Happy Spring Break, Santa Fe!!!!! Come and celebrate with a fun family experience on the Rio Grande! With all of the spring snow melt in the river it is a great time to go rafting!