Our love for rivers isn’t unconditional. Maybe the general idea of rivers–free flowing water, graceful trees along the bank and sweeping skies above–our love for that is unconditional, but when it comes to specific rivers, not so much. It all depends on conditions. So in a year with a mighty snowpack, we’re going to be all about high water trips on the T and extended weeks on Kaweah, snowcapped mountains rising in the distance. But a year like this? With an average 34% snowpack across the state (40% in the watersheds around our main rivers)? Well, this year we are loving us something a little different–rivers that are reliable, that we can count on, like an old friend or an old flannel shirt. And thankfully we’ve some great options (they aren’t even thread-bare around the collar!).
So, in no particular order, here are the rivers we’re loving now–and we recommend you do the same!
The Merced’s fate this year was hung in the balance for a bit and it made us realize how sad we’d be if it didn’t run. Without the last series of storms there probably wouldn’t have been enough snow to provide a raftable spring melt but now, depending on how hot it gets, and how fast (and hence how fast the snow melts), we think we’ll be able to raft the Merced into very early June. With hillsides full of wildflowers, roller-coaster rapids, and easy access from the Bay Area, what’s not to love? Just love it soon because without dams and reservoirs upstream, when the snow is gone, so is the Merced rafting season.
2) The South Fork of the American.
In a year with high water the South Fork gets overshadowed, but it’s the most popular run in California for good reason. Super fun, easy to get to, appropriate for everyone from your uncoordinated co-worker to your P 90 X workout buddy to your kids and in-laws….near wineries and history….just book a trip and see for yourself how delightful the South Fork can be!
After the Rim Fire we honestly didn’t know what to expect with the T this year. What would access be? How would the canyon look? Would anything about the river itself be different? After two pre-season recon missions, and having now opened the season with some lovely trips, we can say the Tuolumne is a spectacular testament to the resilience of nature. Fire damage is clearly visible, but the hills are lush green and the poppies are incredible. People who have been rafting the T for like 40 years who were on our second recon mission literally came back and said it was the prettiest day on the river they’d ever seen. 40 years, prettiest day, that’s saying something.. Check it out before the hills dry out and turn gold.
(photos, top to bottom: Tuolumne 2014, Merced, South Fork spring 2013, Tuolumne 2014)