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Mandatory Lifejacket Wear on All Class III Whitewater Rapids (and higher) -Since January 1, 2010
Definitions for Class Designation on Rivers
The specific grading system in the United States of America [1] is an expanded,
more detailed version of the international scale, which is adopted or preferred
by many other national whitewater organizations:
 
Class I:
 
 
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: Medium.  
 
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 "ClassII+".
Class III: Difficult.  
 
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: Very Difficult.  
 
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 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 kayak roll is highly recommended.  Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of the is difficulty range are designated "Class IV-" or "Class IV+" respectively.  Limit of open top canoes. 
Class V: Extremely Difficult.  
 
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 if 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 kayak 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 (or U)  
 
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, its rating may be changed to an appropriate Class 5.x rating.

OAR 250-010-0154 Language
 
 
(10) Personal Flotation Device Requirements for Class III or Higher Water:
 
(a)  A properly secured personal flotation device must be worn by persons in a boat while navigating sections of river with a commonly accepted scale of river difficulty rated Class III or higher.
(b)  The personal flotation devices worn by boaters must:
   (A)  Be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard as a Type I, III, or V personal flotation device.
   (B)  Not have a limitation or restriction in its approval that would prevent its use on whitewater rivers.
   (C)  Not be an inflatable personal flotation device regardless of rating type.
 
 
Guided whitewater rafting on the Deschutes River

Oregon River Rapids Class Types
NOTE: The rivers and sections listed below are for reference only.  Whitewater classifications vary based on water flows.
Information from the Fourth Edition, "Soggy Sneakers -A Paddler's Guide to Oregon's Rivers."
 
 
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Jennifer Survived Whitewater Rapids
 
Here's why it's important to wear a life jacket -watch Jennifer who knows first hand:
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVLq3Kkt_y8