USDA - Forest Service Bureau of Land Management
River Safety

Be sure your whitewater skills and equipment are equal to this challenging river. Rafts and kayaks should be of high quality, able to negotiate Class II and higher rapids.

  • Wear a life jacket at all times when you are in or near the river. Personal floatation devices (PFDs) should be Coast Guard approved. Type III (15.5 lbs. floatation) and Type V (22 lbs. floatation, rated for commercial use) are best for whitewater.
  • Kayakers should wear helmets.
  • Be prepared for extremes in weather, especially cold. When air and water temperature add up to less than 100 degrees, hypothermia is a high risk.
  • Beware of high water. Most rivers undergo a dangerous change when flows rise.
  • Stay clear of brush and trees in or hanging over the river, the deadliest hazards of all. Watch for new snags after peak snow-melt and heavy rains.
  • When in doubt, stop and scout. Still in doubt? Portage. Reading this river guide is no guarantee of a safe run.
  • Carry first aid kits and rescue equipment. Be prepared to self-rescue, if necessary.

International Scale of River Difficulty

Difficulty of rapids is primarily dependent on water-flow levels. Most rapids increase in difficulty with higher water, however, several on the North Umpqua become more difficult as water levels decrease.

NOTE: These ratings do not reflect potentially dangerous conditions that may be present when trees, snags, and slides enter and become part of the ever-changing river.

The maps in this guide show the rapids having a rating of Class II+ through Class V. If the water temperature is below 50°F, the river should be considered one class more difficult.

It is your responsibility to scout and familiarize yourself with the sections of the river you float.
Class 2 Image

Class II: Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Class II+ rapids may require occasional maneuvering.

Class 3 Image

Class III: Intermediate. Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and might swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages are often required; large waves or strainers may be present, strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties.

Class 4 Image

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. Rapids may require "must" moves above dangerous hazards. Scouting is necessary.

Class 5 Image

Class V: Expert. Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids exposing paddlers to above average endangerment. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Scouting is mandatory. The consequences of errors can be very severe and rescue may be impossible. The only Class V rapid is Deadline Falls. It is a "keeper" rapid with an undertow. Extremely dangerous. Floating is not recommended.

Download the North Umpqua Wild and Scenic River Brochure