When you’re down in the Canyon you’ll most likely hear the guides talking about two types of whitewater: riffles and rapids. Here is a little explanation of both so you’ll look like a pro when you’re on the mighty Colorado River.
A riffle, just like it sounds, is a small bit of turbulence in the river.
You’ll go through plenty of these on your trip and for the most part they are pretty gentle. You can think of them as baby rapids. They aren’t named like their big brothers and offer you a small bump and a splash as you go through.
Their counterpart is the official rapid. These have names like “Crystal,” “Lava Falls” and “Upset.” They’re named for a reason: they are big, wet and take plenty of skill to navigate a boat full of people through. These rapids have a unique rating system that is only used in the Grand Canyon. Most rivers across the country are rated I-VI (I being small and VI being impassable).
The Grand Canyon on the other hand is rated 1-10 (1 being small and 10 being the most technically challenging to navigate). It can be a bit deceiving though. A higher-rated rapid in the Canyon doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a wetter and wilder ride for the guests but, rather, a more difficult rapid for the guides to get the boat through — or in other words, a more technical rapid for the guides.
So there it is, riffle vs. rapid. You’ll be getting up close and personal with both on your trip!