Appalachian Mountain Club

Canoe & Kayak Rating System


Rating System: Canoe & Kayak Trips

Quiet Water
Slow-moving or still water. Minimal wind and/or effective wind shelter. No more than gentle waves. No obstacles/route hazards requiring more than beginner skills to avoid. Paddling pace and distance are appropriate for beginners with some experience. Distance from land is no more than ¼ mile. Self rescue is easy. Paddling conditions, distances and pace are easier than WW CL1 or TW 1. Typical waters include small/medium lakes, small & slow rivers, salt marshes.
Class I: Easy (CL1) Touring Water 1 (TW1)
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. Sustained winds to 10 knots. Waves up to 1 foot, minimal whitecaps and no break. Up to ½ mile from shore. Typical distance up to 10 miles at an average pace of 2½ knots. Minimal route hazards such as currents, rocky or steep landings, heavy boat traffic etc. Typical waters include large lakes, slow-moving rivers, small estuaries and bays.
Class II: Novice (CL2) Touring Water 2 (TW2)
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+”. Sustained winds up to 10 knots. Waves up to 1 foot with whitecaps and small breaks. Up to ½ mile from shore. Typical distance up to 12 miles at an average pace of 2½-3 knots with few on-shore breaks. Moderate route hazards such as currents, rocky or steep landings, heavy boat traffic etc. Typical waters include large lakes and rivers, estuaries and bays.
Class III: Intermediate (CL3) Touring Water 3 (TW3)
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. Sustained winds up to 16 knots. Waves up to 3 feet and/or breaking waves up to 2 feet. Up to 1 mile from shore. Typical distance up to 14 miles at an average pace of 3 knots with few on-shore breaks. Moderate route hazards such as strong currents, surf launches and landings, rocky or steep landings, heavy boat traffic etc. Typical waters would be very large lakes, large estuaries and bays, sounds and open ocean.
Class IV: Advanced (CL4) Touring Water 4 (TW4)
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 is 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 lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class IV-” or “Class IV+” respectively. Sustained winds up to 25 knots. Waves up to 5 feet and/or breaking waves up to 3 feet. Typical distance up to 14 miles at a pace of 3 knots or greater with few on-shore breaks. Potential for significant route hazards such as strong currents, surf launches and landings etc. Typical waters include surf zones and open ocean.

 

 

Notes:

If rating is shown as (CL 2/3) river contains sections of both Class 2 and 3 water. If rating is (CL 2&3) trip will divide into two groups, a group on the Class 2 section, and another on the Class 3 section. Class 4 trips may include Class V whitewater sections.

Closed Boaters Notice

Closed boaters without a Club rating will be asked to demonstrate a wet exit before the start of a trip, or provide the name (well in advance of the trip) of a Chapter member who has witnessed the demonstration of a wet exit either in the pool, at a course or on a previous trip. All closed boaters MUST wear helmets.

We want to help! Contact us with any questions you may have.

Have questions on canoeing or kayaking? Our new program volunteers can assist, encourage, and inform you on your paddling way. Ask our friendly group of volunteers:

We can direct you in how to start, how to improve, equipment questions, pool practices (winter and spring), training, nearby water access points, trips with leaders, etcetera. Don’t be shy! We’re here to help you get started.

 

TRIP RATINGS – ADDITIONAL DETAIL

The NY-NoJ Chapter of the AMC paddles a wide variety of waterways.  All trips are rated for difficulty using the following designations:

Quiet and Tidal Water

QW (Quietwater, Brown water, Still water) These trips are usually run on tranquil lakes, reservoirs and slow-moving rivers. Suited for most canoeists and kayakers.

TW1 through TW4 (Touring/Tidal Water) – Touring Water 1 (novice) through 4 (expert). TW1 trips are generally suited for most canoes and kayaks, including “rec” kayaks. TW2 trips are suited for most touring/sea kayaks and sometimes for canoes. TW3-4 are generally suited for sea kayaks only.

Whitewater

This classification is based on the International Scale of River Difficulty, which is part of the 2005 Safety Code of American Whitewater. CL1 trips are generally suited for most canoes and kayaks. CL2-4 trips usually require specialized whitewater canoes and kayaks.

CL1 (Class 1 Whitewater, BeginnerFast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescueis easy.

CL2 (Class 2 Whitewater, NoviceStraightforward 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+”.

CL3 (Class 3 Whitewater, IntermediateRapids 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.

CL4 (Class 4 Whitewater, AdvancedIntense, 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 lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class IV-” or “Class IV+” respectively.

Class V (Class 5 Whitewater, ExpertWhile the AMC NY-NoJ Chapter does not currently sponsor Class V trips, the description of such river is as follows: 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  

PADDLER RATINGS

The CKC uses a system of paddler ratings to provide trip leaders an indication of the skill level of paddlers who register for their trips. Participants on CKC paddling trips or classes are eligible to receive ratings according to the guidelines outlined below. If you wish to receive a rating on an AMC trip, which has multitude of benefits, ask the trip or water leader to observe you on the trip. Paddler Rating forms can be found here.

 

Paddler ratings correspond to trip ratings of the same level.  For example, a paddler with a class 2 rating has been assumed to have Class 2 paddling skills.  Please note that paddler ratings above Class 2 are boat-specific.

 

Quiet Water (QW) Rating
Two QW trips. This can be 2 river running trips or the Basic Instruction plus one other trip. No recommendations are necessary.
Class 1 Rating
Two trips on Class 1 or greater rivers. This can be 2 river running trips or the Class 1 Instruction plus one other trip. A Class 1 recommendation from any one of these trips is necessary.
Class 2 Rating
Two trips on 2 different Class 2 or greater rivers. This can be 2 river running trips or the Class 2 Instruction plus one other trip on a different Class 2 river. Class 2 recommendations from the 2 different Class 2 trips are necessary. Also necessary is the completion of the Chapter’s Basic Safety and Rescue Course or its equivalent given by an outside-qualified organization.
Class 3 Rating
Paddlers must participate in 5 Class 3 trips on 5 different Class 3 rivers. Needed are recommendations from 3 of the 5 different Class 3 trips.
Class 4 Rating
The class 4 river paddler committee uses five criteria (paddling ability, safety consciousness, rescue participation, leadership ability, and judgment) when deciding if a given paddler should be given a class 4 rating. A brief description of the criteria are listed below.

  1. Paddling Ability. A class 4 paddler has the ability to read and safely paddle a class 4 river with only nominal assistance from other class 4 paddlers.
  2. Safety Consciousness. A class 4 paddler actively looks for potential hazards on a class 4 river and takes appropriate measures so as to avoid such hazards. This includes pointing out potential hazards to other paddlers. In addition, a class 4 paddler assesses a given river, river level, and rapid to determine if it can be run with a good margin of safety and sets up appropriate safety measures (throw bags or persons in a safety boat) accordingly.
  3. Rescue Ability and Participation. A class 4 paddler actively participates in rescues both of persons and of equipment either from land or from the water as appropriate.
  4. Leadership Ability. A class 4 paddler has the ability to safely lead other paddlers down a class 4 river. Such a person has good people skills (able to effectively work with a wide range of personality types), remains calm and collected when facing difficult situations, and is wise enough to seek the counsel of other strong boaters when faced with a difficult or potentially hazardous situation. In addition, such a paddler is familiar with and aware of the abilities (in general and for a specific day) of the participants on a given river trip.
  5. Judgement. A class 4 paddler has sound judgment when paddling a class 4 river. Such a paddler exercises respectful caution when faced with difficult or potentially hazardous situations and offers counsel and direction to others on a river trip.

In summary, a class 4 paddler should have the skills to lead a group of seasoned, class 3 boaters safely down a class 4 river. Seasoned, class 3 paddlers have competently paddled a fair number of different class 3 to 3+ rivers. Rating is achieved by consensus of the Chapter’s current Class 4 paddlers.