Obtain survey data from experienced BRVers to rank order 74 popular whitewater rivers by difficulty.


River difficulty rating systems are unreliable. Different paddlers and guidebook writers use different criteria for terms like "Class 3", "Class 4", "advanced", "expert", etc. When discussing prospective new rivers, experienced paddlers always know to ask a more incisive question: "Is it harder than the _________ ?" When complete, this river ranking survey will provide a definitive, consensus ordered list of whitewater challenges.


If you have paddled 20 or more of these rivers, you are urged to complete and submit the survey.

Rank order the rivers on the list you have paddled in terms of paddling difficulty -- i.e., skill required. Your #1 will be the hardest river on the list you have paddled.

To the extent that "difficulty" and "danger" are different, rank the rivers based on difficulty, not "danger." Focus on paddling skill required, not on remoteness, endurance required, probability of cold conditions, roughness of swims, etc. We want a "pure" measure of difficulty. Folks can make their own judgments about "danger" factors.

Unless otherwise noted, assume that the river is being paddled under good conditions at a moderate water level (e.g., 1' above minimum for average-sized rivers).

Assume that the paddler will run all rapids on the river normally run by most BRVers. For example, most paddlers on the Maury will run Devil's Kitchen. Conversely, assume that paddlers will not run rapids that are normally carried by most boaters.

If you have paddled lots of rivers, there will be cases where you just can't say which of two rivers is harder. Such "ties" are okay! For example, if you've paddled 30 rivers, you might be able to distinguish 10 to 20 categories.

Please submit your data using the attached sheet. However, in formulating your rankings, you will find it easier to use a word processor to develop your ranked list or to lay out chits of paper (labeled with river names) on a table, and then arrange the chits by difficulty.

If you have questions, call Ron Knipling. In particular, call if you're uncertain about the river section being rated. To cite one extreme example, we'll get screwy data if people confuse the Upper, Middle, and Lower Youghs. Likewise if the VA and WV North Rivers are confused.

Mail to Ron Knipling or bring to September 21 BRV meeting. Deadline: Thursday, October 1.

Data Reduction:

First, the data will be entered into a massive spreadsheet. Then, a paired-comparison method will be used whereby all the rivers are ordered according to their relative rankings; i.e., paddlers who have paddled both River A and River B rank A harder; those who have paddled both B and C rank B harder, etc.).

We'll also derive intercorrelations among boaters to see how much different boaters agree or disagree over relative river difficulty.

Results will be published in the November Voyageur.

BRV River Difficulty Ranking Survey Form (See instructions, other side.)

Name____________________________________________ Phone_________________ Boat type________

Enter rankings below (#1 is hardest; ties permitted):

1._____Antietam Creek (e.g., battlefield to Potomac)

2._____Lower Big Sandy Creek

3._____Upper Big Sandy Creek

4._____Blackwater Gorge

5._____Buckhannon (WV, Alton to Sago)

6._____Bullpasture Gorge

7._____Cacapon River, Rt.50 to Rt.127

8._____Casselman River (Markleton to Fort Hill)

9._____Cedar Creek

10._____Chatooga/Section 3

11._____Chatooga/Section 4

12._____Cheat Canyon

13._____Cheat Narrows

14._____Upper Conway (Fletcher to Hood)

15._____Covington River

16._____Cub Run

17._____Dry Fork of the Cheat

18._____Lower Gauley, full release level

19._____Upper Gauley, full release level

20._____Goose Creek (Fairfax Dam to Rt.7)

21._____Gunpowder Falls below Rt.1

22._____Hughes (& Hazel) River

23._____James River (Richmond)

24._____Laurel Fork, below Rt.33, @ 1'

25._____Lehigh, Section 3 (Rockport to Jim Thorpe)

26._____Lost River Dry Gorge

27._____Maury/Goshen Pass

28._____Middle Fork of the Salmon, ID

29._____Muddy Creek, PA


31._____New River Gorge, WV

32._____North Anna

33._____North River Gorge, VA (trib of SF Shen)

34._____North River, WV (trib of Cacapon)


36._____Passage Creek (Elizabeth Furnace area)

37._____Patapsco above Ellicot City

38._____Pine Creek Gorge, PA

39._____Pohick Creek

40._____NB Potomac/Bloomington @ 1,000cfs

41._____NB Potomac/Kitzmiller

42._____Potomac Below Great Falls @ 3.5'

43._____Little Falls of Potomac @ 3.0'

44._____Potomac Needles

45._____Pot.; Violettes Lock/Patowmack Canal Loop @ 3.5'

46._____Upper Rapidan (Shenandoah Park to Wolftown)

47._____Rappahannock Fall Line (Fredericksburg)

48._____Rappahannock/Kelly's Ford

49._____Upper Rappahannock above Rt.211

50._____Robinson River (Rose River to Rt.29)

51._____Rock Creek, DC below Military Road

52._____Savage @ 1,000cfs

53._____Seneca Creek WV

54._____Upper Shavers Fork (McGee to Bemis)

55._____Shavers Fork, Bemis to Bowden (Rt.33)

56._____Shavers Fork below Rt.33

57._____Shenandoah Staircase

58._____SF Shenandoah (Compton/Bentonville Area)

59._____Sideling Hill Creek

60._____NF SB Potomac/Hopeville Canyon

61._____SF SB Potomac/Moorefield Canyon

62._____SB Pot./Smokehole Cnyn Rt.220 to Big Bend

63._____Stony Creek, PA (Hollsopple to Kring)

64._____Thornton River

65._____Tohickon Creek, PA

66._____Trout Run, WV

67._____Upper Tye (Nash to Massies Mill)

68._____Tygart Arden Section

69._____Tygart Gorge

70._____Middle Fork of the Tygart (Audra to Tygart)

71._____Wills Creek (Fairhope to Hyndman, PA Rt.96)

72._____Lower Yough @ 2' on the put-in gauge

73._____Middle Yough

74._____Upper Yough @ 600cfs

Bring to September 21 BRV meeting or mail to Ron Knipling. THANKS!