River Difficulty Tips for First Time Canoers

Thomas Allen Disselkamp studied electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota. For the last 34 years, Thomas Disselkamp has worked as a product development specialist with the 3M Company in St. Paul. An avid outdoorsman, Tom Disselkamp spends his time away from work canoeing and hiking.

Before heading out for the first time, canoeists should learn the International Scale of River Difficulty, a guide used to communicate the relative challenge posed by a given river or waterway. Beginning canoeists should stick to Class I rivers, which are described as slow moving currents featuring few obstacles. In the event that a canoeist falls into the water of a Class I river, self-rescue would be a simple task. Beginners can also consider attempting Class II rivers. These rapids are wide channels requiring only the most basic canoeing maneuvers. A person will not need to scout these waters in advance, though a canoeist should have an elementary understanding of technique.

Any river defined as Class III or above in accordance with the International Scale of River Difficulty should be avoided entirely by novice canoeists. These rivers should be scouted in advance and require advanced skills and techniques to avoid dangerous obstacles. Class VI rivers are defined as extreme rapids and should only be attempted by experts during optimal conditions. The dangers posed by these rivers can be life threatening.