The basic definition of a whitewater river is simply a river that has quite a few rapids along its length. The whitewater itself is formed in the rapids when the river drops suddenly enough to let the water drop rapidly which then makes the water churn and froth enough to form whitewater or basically foamy water.
Whitewater rivers are classified into six different categories worldwide. The ratings range from one, the easiest, to six, the hardest. The grades also refer to how technically difficult and dangerous the river and rapids are. The whitewater river’s rating can change over time, depending on how quickly the water is flowing through the river, and also how deep the river is at that particular time. When a whitewater river is flooding, it may become more dangerous and difficult because the water is flowing much faster and is much deeper.
Whitewater rivers can have many different features along their path. These features all have their own names. Strainers are a blockage of the river that still lets the water run around and partially through it. Strainers are very dangerous features of whitewater rivers because once something is trapped against it, the water will continue to push against it, and the object or person will be forced down under the water.
Sweepers are simply trees that have fallen into the river or are partially in the river but are still attached to the riverbank by their roots. Sweepers don’t form whitewater but can still be dangerous because they can trap paddlers or seriously obstruct their path.
Hydraulics are a more serious threat to a whitewater river. Hydraulics form when water flows over the top of an object under the water, which can then cause the water to flow back upstream over the top of the underwater object. This essentially causes a whirlpool effect, which kayakers can easily become stuck in.
Pillows are another cause of whitewater. These are formed when a lot of water runs into a large object, which makes the water rage against that side of the object. Often the object that is the cause of the pillow can be undercut and kayakers may be forced underwater and trapped under and against the object.
Whitewater rivers can be thoroughly exciting and cause adrenaline rushes. This is simply because they can be very dangerous and the primal adrenaline rush makes it just that much more exciting. If you use common sense and take necessary precautions on a whitewater river, you will have a great time and more than likely survive the trip itself.