All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafiting

The All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting California River Blog

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Opening Day for Cherry Creek: May 3, 2014

April 24th, 2014 Malina

aorafting_cherrycreekAnd now time for a report from the Silver Linings Dept.

Because of the California drought, Cherry Creek is poised to have an epically long season.  Instead of waiting for the spring melt to wrap up–because on Cherry Creek we have to wait for the water levels to be LOW enough to raft, as there is actually such thing as too much water when it comes to technical, class V whitewater rafting–this year Cherry Creek is pretty much ready to go.  Which means our season starts next week!  May 3rd, to be precise.  This is a good month, month and half early . . .  and the season will run until Sept 1st, like the Main Tuolumne.  Now that’s a class V season, folks.

(photo: Lewis’ Leap Rapid (class V) on Cherry Creek.)

2014 California River Rafting Season Update [MAP]: Eight Rivers We’re Rafting This Year

April 21st, 2014 Malina

We’re getting a LOT of questions about what kind of impact the drought is having on California rafting trips in 2014.  Let’s clarify the matter:  we have plenty of water for great rafting trips this year because of upstream reservoirs.  Our handy-dandy map shows you when and where all our rivers are running this season.

Click on Map To View Full Size Version:

Map: 2014 California River Rafting Season Update

View Full Size Map: 2014 California River Rafting Season Update

Here’s a more detailed description of each California river we’re running:

South Fork American:

Family-friendly and fabulous, the South Fork is your go-to river for groups with first-timers and Nervous Nellies, but it’s certainly no float trip.  Class III rapids abound and even experienced rafters will have a hoot on this, the most popular river in the state.  Trips are running now and into the fall!

Middle Fork American:

Tunnel Chute rapid has to be one of the coolest rapids in California–it’s a heart-pounding ride down a chute literally carved out of solid rock that ends in a placid float through a small hill.  What???  Yes, it’s true, and you gotta see it to believe it.  Plus there’s another 17 miles of wilderness canyon with class III-IV rapids and calm stretches for day-dreaming and relaxing. Middle Fork river trips will run May-September.


Man, the Tuolumne is a keeper.  It’s a beautiful and wild canyon with a heart of gold that refused to be put out by the 2013 Rim Fire.  See the recovery process up-close and personal on a Tuolumne river trip this year–we’re already running trips and will be out there until September 1st, 2014.

Cherry Creek:

Class V Cherry Creek is the most challenging commercial river trip in the United States.  And the drought is actually doing it a huge  favor–because there isn’t a big spring snowmelt, which has to subside before the river is low enough to run in typical seasons–Cherry Creek is actually going to be available for trips much earlier this year.  Our season starts May 3rd and ends September 1st.


The Merced is one of the few free-flowing rivers to have a spring season in California this year.  Located near Yosemite Valley, this class III-IV river runs April to early June in 2014.


Because it’s fed by snow melt (of which there isn’t a ton this year), the Kaweah will have a short season in 2014, just a few action-packed weekends in late April and early May.

Cal Salmon:

If you’re ready for a last minute adventure to make the road trip up north, this weekend we have  one epic class IV-V weekend (April 26-27) on the Cal Salmon.   The season here will last through May, but this is a river that we don’t run every day, so be sure to call in advance to book ahead.

A special note about the Spring rafting season:

Well, first off, some people don’t know that the season has already started.  Somebody, somewhere is probably rafting through rapids in California right now as you read this (assuming you’re reading this during daylight hours.)

If you’ve been wanting to check one of our spring runs off of your bucket list, right now is the best time to book that trip. Not only are the river canyons more beautiful in the spring, but it’s the only time of year you can raft on the Merced, Kaweah or Cal Salmon.  (The North Fork of the American or North Fork of the Stanislaus are not expected to have a season this year.)  And this year, Cherry Creek will have a full spring season, which almost never happens because flows are usually TOO high.

And in case you haven’t seen it, we are running our annual Spring Sale right now; if you book by April 30th and raft before June 30th, you will save 20% off your trip for groups of any size.  Need help making plans?  Get in touch, we want to help!

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Top Three Spring Rafting Trips in 2014

April 14th, 2014 Malina

AOrafting_Tuolumne_2014Our 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!

1) The Merced.  MercedRiver_aorafting

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!

3) The Tuolumne.Tuolumne_AOrafting_2014

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)


Spring Rafting Flow and Snowpack Update: Spring Runs and Summer Fun

April 14th, 2014 Malina

flows picMan.  What a winter. 

Ol’ Man Winter seems to have nodded off for much of his tenure this year—thankfully however he got a wee wake-up call at the last-minute and got back to work for at least a little bit at the very end.

As we’ve been reporting for months now, we’ve known all winter that even with the drought the reservoirs above our main rivers have sufficient water to guarantee recreational flows this year.  What the last set of storms did for us was not only help the state overall (which is frankly the most important thing) but also gave us the boost we needed to have short but sweet seasons on some spring rivers like the Kaweah and North Fork American Rivers. It also gave us the boost we needed for the Merced River, which will run into very early June.

Before and After the late Storms: Free-flowing Rivers

Until the last set of storms the snowpack overall in the state was dismal at best.  Agencies tend to divide the state into three regions—north, central, and south, and all had room to improve, shall we say!

The northern part of the state was at 7% of normal; it has now grown to 25%.  This region doesn’t have an affect on our main runs.

Furthest south, in January the snowpack was at 22% and is now at 32%.  This means the Kaweah will have a short but fun season.

Before and After the late Storms: Dam-controlled Rivers (this is the best news part!)

The central part of the state—which has the greatest impact on our main operations—actually fared the best.  In January the numbers were at 18%.  Now we’re at 40%, which gives us all the water we need for regular and reliable summer flows all season long on the South and Middle Forks of the American, and the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek.  And by the way, “regular and reliable” isn’t PR-speak for “lame but runnable.”  It means we’ll have the same water we do pretty much every summer. In other words—the usual great conditions. We aren’t going to have any high water trips or anything, but since those are only for the adrenaline junkies among us anyway, the vast majority of rafters aren’t going to even notice the difference.

Mordor? More Like the Shire. See the Tuolumne NOW

April 10th, 2014 Malina

aorafting_tuolumneriver_2014We are getting reports–and by “we are getting” I mean we know from our own eyeballs on the Tuolumne River this spring–that the Tuolumne is prettier right now than it has ever been.  Which is rather awesome given that the canyon experienced one of the worst fires in California history last summer.

Look for a detailed report on the canyon’s recovery soon; what you need to know right this instant is that the canyon is green, verdant, and covered in California poppies.  There are places where it looks like someone dropped a Paul Bunyon-sized packet of Mac n’ Cheese powder on the hillsides. Our guests last weekend enjoyed the spectacular show and so will you if you hop to it NOW and raft the T with us this weekend!  We still have some room but spots are limited so call now now now.  We’re here at (800) 247-2387.

Cal Salmon Rafting April 26-27 2014

March 27th, 2014 Malina

Ready for a road trip?

With boatloads of AO guides and a day of outrageous class IV-V whitewater at the other end?  Maybe a campfire and your tasty beverage of choice?  Waking up with sand in your socks, leaves in your hair, and another day of whitewater ahead?

What?  You’re unsure?

Ok, watch this video.  It will convince you of the radness of a weekend on the Cal Salmon with AO.

Ah………NOW  you get it.

Glad you saw the light.  Now my friends it’s time to pack your wool socks, gather your hale and hearty buddies ’round, and fill up the gas tank cuz we’re heading to the Cal Salmon at the end of April.  You can join us April 26th for a one day trip, or pack your tent and raft with us two days in a row, April 26th and 27th.  For all the details, meet times and all that jazz give us a ring at (800) 247-2387.  We’re here M-F 10 to 4 these days.



Support California Rivers April 2, 2014

March 20th, 2014 Malina

Sacramento Evening Of Empowerment PosterHere’s a cool chance to kill two birds with one stone–or “feed two birds with one seed” as a very positive person I was talking to recently said……

And event called an “Evening of Empowerment” is happening this April 2 in at the historic Jean Runyon Theatre in downtown Sacramento.

Ok so first question is what is an “Evening of Empowerment” exactly?

Here’s how the event organizers describe them:

“At Gift of Courage live empowerment events, everyday heroes speak from their open heart to yours. Their passion and purpose is contagious and uplifting. The musical acts that perform are electrifying. And, ticket sale proceeds benefit worthy local and national non-profits. Attendees are inspired and motivated to make a world of difference in their community. Simply, these productions are life changing.”

Second question: why are we telling you about this?  Two great reasons. 

One is that one of the beneficiaries of the April 2nd event is an organization we hold dear and support ourselves–Friends of the River, which tirelessly works to protect the rivers we raft on and love.   The other reason is even more personal–one of the speakers is none other than Kelly Kalafatich, a woman who needs no introduction in the river world.  A pioneering athlete, filmmaker and even stuntwoman (she played Meryl Streep in the River Wild!), Kelly is pretty much a rockstar in our book.  After decades of exploration and adventure, Kelly contracted a waterborne parasite on a river expedition in Africa which has left her wheelchair-bound and struggling with chronic pain.  The chance to hear her speak is a rare opportunity.

Participate and Learn More

Tickets for the event can be purchased online here.  They are $29 for adults and students get a discount–only $19!  Learn more about the Gift of Courage organization and the April 2 Evening of Empowerment on their website: http://www.giftofcourage.com/

Drought and California Rafting: We’re Good to Go

March 3rd, 2014 Malina

aoraftingboatDam-controlled Rivers are Good to Go

Although the California drought continues, the storms since our last update have helped the overall situation across the state and solidified what we told you back in January–that upstream utilities will release stored water for their own purposes this summer regardless of how much more precipitation the state receives before the end of the winter.  This means we’ll  get to raft on reliable, normal flows all season long!  Trips on the South and Middle Forks of the American River, as well as the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek, will be great during the 2014 rafting season.

What About Non-dam Controlled Rivers? For rivers without dams, which rely totally on snowmelt, it’s a different deal.  We’re still “waiting and seeing” for aoraftingMF canyonrivers like the North Stan.  If we get late storms that deliver some solid snowpack in the Sierra (this is still possible and we’re keeping our fingers crossed), we’ll get a few awesome trips in before the melt burns out, and that of course would be wonderful.  If not, some spring rivers may not run this year–but don’t be too sad since you’ll still have four other options to choose from all season long . . .

Pre-Season Sale Ends Today: Save 25% Until 5pm Jan 31st!

January 31st, 2014 Malina


Pre-Season Sale Ends Tonight!

This is your last chance to save 25% with our most flexible sale of the year.  Any river, any trip, any day of the 2014 rafting season.  Call us at (800) 247-2387, Live Chat, or pre-pay online by 5 pm tonight, January 31st before the 2014 Pre-Season Sale floats into the sunset with out you.

Will There Be Rivers Running? YES! Oui! JA! Si Senor!

And yes, even with the drought, we’re looking at good flows on our four most popular rivers: the South and Middle Forks of the American, the Tuolumne, and Cherry Creek!  Learn more about the impact of the  California drought on 2014 rafting trips in our blog article.


How Will California’s Drought Affect Rafting in 2014? (Hint: Dam-Controlled Rivers are Just Fine)

January 17th, 2014 Malina

AORafting_UpperSF_2014Problematic Precipitation!?

If you’ve been anywhere near a computer, TV, radio, or even–gasp–a newspaper lately, you’re probably thinking “I hope rafters love the smell of napalm in the morning, cuz that’s the biggest thrill they’re gonna get this summer.”

Our Saving Grace:

Ah, but not so fast, my cinematic friends, don’t hit the panic button yet.  It’s true this is a dry winter.  Very dry indeed.  And no, we’re not excited by the numbers anymore than you are. But here’s the thing.  Rafting in 2014 is going to be fine.  Because rivers in California tend to have a LOT of dams on them, and that is a big saving grace in years like this.  It’s a little awkward for tree-huggers like us because dams aren’t perfect, but in a drought year they are pretty much……well, they save our bootys!  And they mean you will have a lot of fun on the river this summer.

Prognosis For Dam-Controlled Rivers: No Worries!

For dam-controlled rivers, things are “no worries.” No need for concern about South and Middle Fork American trips, or the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek.  The reservoirs above these rivers have enough water to be in fine shape.  And, because of agreements with utilities like SMUD, the water they release anyway for power generation will be released at the times we need it to take you rafting.  So, even if there isn’t a single storm between now and June, trips on these rivers are protected.  That means: four rivers, class II-V, one to three-day trips, no problem. Whew!

Prognosis for Free-Flowing Rivers: Wait and See!AORafting_upperSF_2014

We’re taking a “wait and see” approach when it comes to rivers without dams, like the North Fork of the American.  Without massive reservoirs upstream, rivers like the North Fork are dependent on snowmelt, so without a good snowpack, its season will be very short, or may not happen at all.  But, just a storm or two (and there is still time for that to happen) could dump enough snow to give us what we need.  So, we wait and see!  Like Gandalf says, there’s always hope.

The Bottom Line:

We would love to see a few great storms hit the mountains–not just for us, but for farmers, for ranchers, for reservoirs, for fish, for washing dishes–before the end of the winter.  If we do, we’ll get to visit all of our favorite rivers this year.  But if we don’t, if we don’t get even one more storm, we will still be able to raft on four rivers that between them run the gamut from mellow float trips to incredible class V challenge.  That’s pretty cool–you had me at hello on that one!

Now, before I mix anymore cinematic metaphors I’ll sign off with the promise that we’ll keep you updated as the winter continues.  Until then, pray for snow people, pray for snow!

(Photos: The Upper South Fork near Kyburz in December of 2013)