Rafting and white water rafting are recreational outdoor activities which use an inflatable raft to navigate a river or other body of water. This is often done on whitewater or different degrees of rough water. Dealing with risk and the need for teamwork is often a part of the experience. This activity as a leisure sport has become popular since the 1950s, if not earlier, evolving from individuals paddling 10 feet (3.0 m) to 14 feet (4.3 m) rafts with double-bladed paddles or oars to multi-person rafts propelled by single-bladed paddles and steered by a person at the stern, or by the use of oars.  Rafting on certain sections of rivers is considered an extreme sport, and can be fatal, while other sections are not so extreme or difficult. Rafting is also a competitive sport practiced around the world which culminates in a world rafting championship event between the participating nations. The International Rafting Federation, often referred to as the IRF, is the worldwide body which oversees all aspects of the sport. Whitewater rafting can be traced back to 1811 when the first recorded attempt to navigate the Snake River in Wyoming was planned. With no training, experience, or proper equipment, the river was found to be too difficult and dangerous. Hence, it was given the nickname “Mad River.” the first commercial rafting trip took place. On June 9, 1940, Clyde Smith lead a successful trip through the Snake River Canyon.
Classes of white water
Otherwise known as the International Scale of River Difficulty, below are the six grades of difficulty in white water rafting. They range from simple to very dangerous and potential death or serious injuries.
Class 1: Very small rough areas, might require slight maneuvering. (Skill level: Very basic)
Class 2: Some rough water, maybe some rocks, might require some maneuvering. (Skill level: Basic paddling skill)
Class 3: Small waves, maybe a small drop, but no considerable danger. May require significant maneuvering. (Skill level: Some experience in rafting)
Class 4: Whitewater, medium waves, maybe rocks, maybe a considerable drop, sharp maneuvers may be needed.(Skill level: Exceptional rafting experience)
Class 5: Whitewater, large waves, large volume, possibility of large rocks and hazards, possibility of a large drop, requires precise maneuvering. (Skill level: Full mastery of rafting)
Class 6: Class 6 rapids are considered to be so dangerous that they are effectively unnavigable on a reliably safe basis. Rafters can expect to encounter substantial whitewater, huge waves, huge rocks and hazards, and/or substantial drops that will impart severe impacts beyond the structural capacities and impact ratings of almost all rafting equipment. Traversing a Class 6 rapid has a dramatically increased likelihood of ending in serious injury or death compared to lesser classes. (Skill level: Full mastery of rafting, and even then it may not be safe) 
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Rafts in white water are very different vehicles than canoes or kayaks and have their own specific techniques to maneuver through whitewater obstacles. Examples of these techniques include.
- Punching – Rafts carry great momentum, and on rivers certain obstacles like hydraulics (recirculating currents that can flip and sometimes trap boats/gear) or large standing waves, that are dodged by canoes and kayaks are often punched by rafts. This involves the raft rower or rafting crew paddling the raft to give it enough speed to push through the hydraulic without getting stopped.
- High siding – If a raft is caught in a hydraulic it will often quickly go sideways. In order to stop the raft flipping on its inside edge, the rafters can climb to the side of the raft protruding into the air (hence the name "high siding"), the extra weight on the high side of the boat will push the boat back into a horizontal position. In this position the rafters may be able to use the draw stroke to pull the raft out of the head.
- Low siding- - A maneuver sometimes used at LOW water to slide through a channel less than the size of the craft.
- Ferrying: A technique used to move across current, to position the raft away from more dangerous obstacles, or select a safer line through the rapid. When using oars, this technique involves putting the stern slightly to the side the rafter wants to move, and pulling back on the oars to move across current. With paddle rafts, this technique is more difficult because paddle rafts are fastest moving forward, unlike oar-driven rafts in which pulling backwards is stronger, but is similar, with the captain steering the bow in the direction the raft needs to move and paddling forward. 
- Dump truck – When a raft hits an obstacle sideways and throws some contents or passengers into the water. Rafts are inherently stable craft because of their size and low center of mass, and often they will shed gear and passengers before they actually capsize. If a raft dumps some or all of its passengers but remains upright, it is said to have dump-trucked.
- Left over right or right over left – Rafts almost always flip side over side. If the left tube rises over the right tube, the raft is said to have flipped left over right and vice versa.
- Taco – If a raft is soft, or under-inflated, it may taco, or reverse taco. Rafts are said to have tacoed if the middle of the raft buckles and the front of the raft touches or nearly touches the back of the raft. This is often a result of surfing in a hydraulic or encountering boulders. A reverse taco is when the nose or stern of the raft is pulled down under water and buckles to touch the middle, back or nose of the raft.
- End over end – Occasionally rafts will flip end over end. This is usually after the raft has dump-trucked to lighten the load, allowing the water to overcome the weight of the boat, flipping it vertically before it lands upside down. Rafts will more often taco and turn sideways, making an end-over-end flip very rare in most rafts.
- Downstream flip – A raft capsizes after encountering an obstacle, such as a rock, a feature like a hydraulic, or even another raft. These objects are usually stationary or possibly surfing in a hydraulic. In this event, the raft becomes unstable and usually flips over downstream or in the direction of travel. A downstream flip may be exacerbated by a heavier load or more people in the raft. People may physically assist in the inertia of the flip by pulling the boat over on top of themselves.
- Upstream Flip - A raft broadsides and becomes stuck on an obstacle (usually a rock) and water pours over the upstream tube, eventually flipping the raft,
- Back roller – A broad reversal such as that formed below a dam or ledge. Rafts can be particularly vulnerable to back rollers, because they can quickly fill a raft and then push it down at the back. If there are snags at the bottom of the river, dumped rafters can be caught and drowned in the aerated and therefore less buoyant water.
- Dark-siding - A rafter climbing over a side tube as the raft flips. In swim beer rules, anyone who witnesses one of these owes beer to the "successful dark-sider". He or she may be responsible for any beer owed for the ensuing clean-up, depending on the region.
- Flip line – The flip line technique is often used in rafting where flips are a possibility. A flip line may be a loop of webbing that has a biner on it. The carabiner is attached to the perimeter line on the raft. Standing on top of the upside down raft, the raft participants will hold the line and lean to the opposite side from where the flip line is attached, re-righting the raft.
- Knee flipping – Capsized rafts that are small enough with little or no gear attached can be knee flipped. This involves the rafter holding the webbing on the underside of the raft, and pushing their knees into the outer tube, and then lifting their body out of the water, leaning back to overturn the raft.
- T rescue – Somewhat like the kayak technique, some rafts are large enough that they need to be overturned with the assistance of another raft or land. Positioning the upturned raft or land at the side of the raft, the rafters can then re-right the raft by lifting up on the perimeter line.
- T-grip re-flip - The T-grip on a rafting paddle may be used to re-flip light rafts by inserting the Tee into the self bailing holes around the floor perimeter and re-righting the boat in the same manner as the flip line technique.
- Pillow ride- Water will "pillow" as current hits a vertical surface. The craft can be pointed into this type of hydraulic, and with varying degrees of success can be driven smoothly up the vertical surface, smoothly off the side and either into an eddy or into the current. This can be a dangerous maneuver as it can easily flip or dump a raft. This should never be done intentionally on strainers, undercuts, or above sieves. ALWAYS exercise caution, but have fun.
- Surfing – Craft often use waves/ hydraulics on rivers to surf. Normally this is done by "eddying out" below a hydraulic and paddling back into the trough of the wave, sometimes boil line or "chunder pile" the opposite is being surfed in which you lose control (any you did really have) and you are along for the ride. These can often be retentive hydraulics, if a swimmer finds one they can be held indefinitely depending on water level or particular hydraulic characteristics.
- Drop surfing- instead of paddling back in as above, you take forward momentum into the hydraulic and instead of "T-ing" up to it you hit the hole with an angle and spin upstream to stay in the hydraulic and start surfing, or begin being surfed. This is an Advanced Maneuver! Always be aware of what is up and downstream before attempting any surfing intentionally.
- Nose dunks – Large self-bailing rafts can enter hydraulics called holes from downstream and submerge their nose, or reverse taco. This can be a safe way to get rafters wet in a hydraulic. (see surfing)
- Pirouette – A move executed by either a sweep or draw stroke, sending the raft spinning with the current. Often useful for avoiding obstacles.
- Back Pivot - Turning the raft from a ferry angle to a bow-downstream position. Used in tight places to recover from an extreme ferry angle, this maneuver narrows the passing space of the boat and allows it to slide closely past obstructions. 
The overall risk level on a rafting trip using proper precautions is low. Thousands of people safely enjoy rafting trips every year.
Like most outdoor sports, rafting in general has become safer over the years. Expertise in the sport has increased, and equipment has become more specialized and improved in quality. As a result, the difficulty rating of most river runs has changed. A classic example is the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, which historically had a reputation far exceeding its actual safety statistics. Today the Grand Canyon sees hundreds of safe rafting trips by both do-it-yourself rafters and commercial river concessionaires.
Rafting companies generally require customers to sign waiver forms indicating understanding and acceptance of potential serious risks. Both do-it-yourself and commercial rafting trips often begin with safety presentations to educate rafting participants about problems that may arise. Depending on the area, safety regulations covering rafting, both for the general do-it-yourself public as well as commercial operators, may exist in legislation. These range from the mandatory wearing of lifejackets, carrying certain equipment such as whistles and throwable flotation devices, to certification of commercial outfitters and their employees.
It is generally advisable to discuss safety measures with a commercial rafting operator before signing on for that type of trip. The required equipment needed is essential information to be considered.
Risks in white water rafting stem from both environmental dangers and from improper behavior. Certain features on rivers are inherently unsafe and have remained consistently so. These would include ‘keeper hydraulics’, ‘strainers’ (e.g. fallen trees), dams (especially low-head dams, which tend to produce river-wide keeper hydraulics), undercut rocks, and of course dangerously high waterfalls. Even in safe areas, moving water can always present risks—such as when a swimmer attempts to stand up on a rocky riverbed in strong current, risking foot entrapment. Irresponsible behavior related to rafting while intoxicated has also contributed to many accidents. 
Typical rafting injuries include trauma from striking an object, traumatic stress from the interaction of the paddler’s positioning and equipment and the force of the water, overuse injuries, submersion/environmental injuries, and non-environmental injuries due to undisclosed medical conditions (such as heart problems). Studies have shown that injury rates in rafting are relatively low, though they may be skewed due to a large number of unreported incidents. Fatalities are rare in both commercial and do-it-yourself rafting. Meta-analyses have calculated that fatalities ranged between 0.55 - 0.86% per 100,000 user days.
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Like all outdoor activities, rafting must balance its use of nature with the conservation of rivers as a natural resource and habitat. Because of these issues, some rivers now have regulations restricting the annual seasons and daily operating times or numbers of rafters.
Conflicts have arisen when commercial rafting operators, often in co-operation with municipalities and tourism associations, alter the riverbed by dredging and/or blasting in order to eliminate safety hazards or create more interesting whitewater features in the river. Environmentalists argue that this may have negative impacts to riparian and aquatic ecosystems, while proponents claim these measures are usually only temporary, since a riverbed is naturally subject to permanent changes during large floods and other events. Another conflict involves the distribution of scarce river permits to either the do-it-yourself public or commercial rafting companies.
Rafting by do-it-yourself rafters and commercial rafting companies contributes to the economy of many regions which in turn may contribute to the protection of rivers from hydroelectric power generation, diversion for irrigation, and other development. Additionally, white water rafting trips can promote environmentalism. Multi-day rafting trips by do-it-yourself rafters and commercial rafting companies through the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System have the potential to develop environmental stewardship and general environmental behavior. Studies suggest that environmental efficacy increases when there is an increase in the length of the trip, daily immersion, and the amount of resource education by trip participants. 
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