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Old 07-05-2005   #11
God Amongst Men
yetigonecrazy's Avatar
Phuoc My, Da Nang, THE 'NAM
Paddling Since: 1845
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,988
addisons scale is good, but its really confusing unless you know what you're looking at, plus all three dont unilaterally move, they fluctuate independently and even if one is just two numbers off it changes the whole thing. i like the I-VI with -/+, cuz it gives you 18 categories, thats enough for just about anything. plus it all depends on how you write it.if i were writing pine creek, i wouldnt call it a class V run, i would say its a class III-IV (V)(P)....the V for pine creek and the P for the dam. simple.

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Old 07-05-2005   #12
Spits Hot Fire
N. Cascades, Washington
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 978
Why not use a scale like in climbing. Like with a a - d subscale and/or use a grade as well, isn't it like grade 1 through 4 or something in alpine/mtneering climbing? to rate the commitment level...easy roadside through very remote, long approach, hiking, etc..

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Old 07-05-2005   #13
placerville, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 732
i think the a.w. way is great-- I - IV, with + and -, then 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, etc.
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Old 07-06-2005   #14
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,909
Here's what I found out about the current Class I - VI system:

From: mikesawyer
To: gcpba(at)
Sent: Wednesday, July 06, 2005 10:37 PM
Subject: [gcpba] Re: Origin of Whitewater Rating Scale?

In Susan Taft's book, The River Chasers, A History of American
Whitewater Paddling, (Published by Flowing Water Press, Alpen Books
Press, Mukilteo, WA, , starting at pg. 45, she
details the history of the rating system.

It's too long to quote here. Suffice to say it was
conceived/appropriated/proposed/assimilated/stolen in parts/and sorta
adopted in (19)56 by the Guide Committee of the American White Water
Affiliation. (AWWA). Some of the essence is attributed to the
Washington Folboat Club circa mid-50s and First in Boating Arkansas
River Club (FibArk).

Good read. --mike sawyer

Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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Old 07-09-2005   #15
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 6
Did you ever take a look at the Keel Hauler River Rating sytem which uses a numbering system that goes to 36.

For a alphabetical river listing look at

There is also a self rating system that goes along with the river rating system.

Any comments/criticisims of any of the systems is appreciated.

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Old 07-09-2005   #16
peterB's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 567
The thing from climbing I would like to see is the star system in the guide books. Because there is manky class whatever and there classic class whatever. In climbing guides they will give each climb stars like movies up to 3 or 5 and that would be cool to know when traveling so you know the must do's in the area regardless of grade.

friend of the fork, knife, and spoon
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Old 07-10-2005   #17
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 11
I feel like an important aside is being missed in this thread. The river is dynamic, the river changes character with the flow. Thus, one must look at the guide books, get local beta, and physically take a look at the section. The rating system, whoeverÂ’s, is simply an indicator or a flavor.

In this sense, Climbing is more less static; a climb doesn't change from day to day. But a rapid... look at say Pine Creek at 500 and then at 1500.

Also, for one to say a class V creek is in line with a class V river might reconsider their experience.

Just my 2 cents.
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Old 07-10-2005   #18
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 155

I too like the AWA system, but realistically, class V means you need to be good enough to decide for yourself if on a given day @ a given flow you want to make it happen, so 5.1 -vs- 5.2 doesn't matter as much as if you're having a good day, in the zone, have appropriate safety, can deal with the consequences, and the water level is right for you, as there is no standard for what is "too high" or "too low," which I as an ex-easterner have been known to expand as my need to paddle and lack of environmental co-operation have dictated.

sorry for the run-on sentance to those more gramatically sensative
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Old 07-10-2005   #19
Twin Lakes, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 36
I actually llike the new European river classification system as modified by Terrry Storry in his guide to Brritish Whitewater. Rivers are still graded in difficulty by I-VI with the exception of using an alphabetical grade of seriousness. A being the safest and F being the most dangerous. So you could find class Vb rivers which would be difficult whitewater without serious consequenses or a class IVf which would be easier moves with higher consequenses for missing.
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Old 07-11-2005   #20
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 388
gonzobreck makes a good point. If you start making rating complicated, then you have to include so many factors. Factors like how things change with water level, what type of difficulty the river has (rocks, big water, drops, holes), and danger level. It seems too much of a mess. Keep it simple.

You've still got to study the run. A rating system can't replace getting accurate beta.

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