Along the Lidder River in Yennar – about 17 kilometres south of Pahalgam is where River Rafting commences. River Rafting runs are organized by Kashmir Rafting Operators Association which is supervised by J & K Tourism Department. The runs are 2 kilometres and 3 kilometres long and take about 30 to 45 minutes per spree.
Grade I to Grade III rapids are what this rafting expedition would entail. Rafting guides who are trained in all 6 Grades of River Rafting and are well versed with the Pahalgam area and Lidder River Topography (River Guides) also train the rafting enthusiasts prior to embarking upon the rafting expedition. The Pahalgam runs meander through beautiful conifer forests in thrilling rapids.
J & K Tourism also hosts White Water Rafting Festivals in the month of May in Pahalgam in order to converge, inspire and persuade like-minded rafting-enthusiasts and wannabes and to promote this adventure sport in Pahalgam in the international circuit of professional rafters.
River rafting is a challenging adventure sport of navigating a river on a raft. The same river-sport done in a canoe or a kayak makes it ‘canoeing’ and ‘kayaking’ respectively. Sounds too slow for you? Now add a steep gradient to the river-bed. Add volume and velocity to the river water. And just for kicks, let’s add some turbulence to the gushing river. Now try rafting or canoeing or kayaking on this river which controls you and your movement from the word go. And depending on the Grade of the Rapids, you can expect where you would wind up. But this thrill of high-action is a must-do atleast once in a lifetime.
River-rafting turns ‘Whitewater rafting’ when the gradient of the river bed turns steep and the water moves rapidly and violently, so much so that the water turns frothy and appears white. So, speed is the key. A Rapid is the turbulent part of the river which is caused by the high-gradient of the river-bed, elevation of the river, pressure caused by constriction and obstruction to the flow. Exploiting this turbulence and volume of the river is the Whitewater Rafting.
Pahalgam offers Grades I to III of River Rafting. Grade is an international scale to rate the safety, difficulty and maneuvering skill-level required to navigate through a stretch of a river. The grading system is different for different countries as it depends on their individual topographies.
In India, the Whitewater Grading is as follows:
Grade I: Predominantly flat water with small and easy waves.
Grade II: Clear passages with some areas of difficulty.
Grade III: Difficult passages which are sometimes narrow in places and have high waves.
Grade IV: Very difficult passages through narrow channels which require precise manoeuvring.
Grade V: Extremely difficult due to high velocity and fast-flowing waters which can be manoeuvred only by experts.
Grade VI: For all practical purposes, unmanageable - even fatal.