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The All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting California River Blog

Read up on everything related to whitewater rafting on California rivers with All-Outdoors

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.

SFA_AOrafting

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 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

aorafting

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)

 

 

Rim Fire Update: Tuolumne River’s Road to Recovery

January 16th, 2014 Malina

AOrafting_rimfirejan14AO Rafting owner Scott A got the opportunity to check out the Tuolumne River canyon with the US Forest Service last week.  Although still closed to the general public, the Forest Service has been working on the access road to the Tuolumne put-in, and we were lucky enough to be invited along.  The excellent state of the road is a good indication of all the effort going into stabilizing and maintaining access to the wild lands burned by the Rim Fire.  Right now they are ahead of schedule on the road, and funding for their projects is good.

Scott reports that the canyon is certainly different and clearly experienced an historic event through the Rim Fire.  The contrast between the areas the fire somehow missed, and the areas it scorched, is stark. Since you can definitely see the fire damage from the river, and on the drive to put-in, rafting trips on the Tuolumne River in 2014 will be a great way to get a window into the canyon’s recovery process.  Right now the canyon looks pretty barren and brown as you can see from Scott’s pictures, but with just a little rain those hills will be green in no time.  Restoration of the larger flora like the pines, oaks, and manzanitas will take longer.  River trips are going to  the best way to be front and center to witness the process of the canyon’s gradual restoration.

aorafting_rimfirejan14When it comes to predicting what trips will be like on the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek in 2014, it’s too early for specifics.  Due to water storage in upstream reservoirs there will be ample water for standard summer flows.  Spring flows, of course, depend on how the rest of the winter plays out in terms of snowpack.

AOrafting_rimfirejan14Obviously there’s no celebrating a calamity like the Rim Fire, but one thing that Scott noticed is a major reduction in Poison Oak and hey, even us nature lovers can’t help but crack a tiny smile thinking about that nasty plant getting a little lesson in humility!  Trips to the potty should be a little bit safer this summer, is all I’m sayin’. :)

aorafting_TU_jan14We’ll keep you up-to-date about the canyon’s progress, and, of course, when the 2014 rafting season on the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek opens.

Photos:

Top: Looking upstream towards Lumsden Bridge, on Cherry Creek

Middle: The Tuolumne River Canyon

Second from Bottom: Merel’s Pool, the put-in for the Tuolumne River

Bottom: Driving to put-in with the Forest Service

AO Rafting on NPR: “Whitewater Rafting to Continue Despite Dry Winter”

January 15th, 2014 Malina

This article accompanied Scott A’s interview on Capital Public Radio’s Insight program on January 15, 2014.  You can listen to the entire interview as well.

capradio-crop1