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

April 21st, 2014 by 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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So Many Reasons To Be Thankful

November 16th, 2012 by Amy diVittorio

Mark Dubois and George Armstrong at the CRA

As it is the month of Thanksgiving I’d say it’s time to count some of our blessings here at AO. Last month AO’s founding father, George Armstrong, was honored at the C.R.A. Gala. George received the Mark Dubois Award for his leading role in furthering river conservation. In the 60′s George pioneered an outdoor education program at Mount Diablo High School where he was a teacher. It was called Summit Seekers. At the Gala I met Terry, a student of his who became a leader in the program. She says that nothing remotely similar existed at the time in the area and that what George had started was groundbreaking.  He was leading groups of teens into the backwoods, down remote rivers, and up rock cliffs.  His students learned life skills, survival skills, an appreciation for nature and an appreciation for the swift hand of discipline.  Oh yes, if you hang with George’s former students long enough you’ll hear some fun stories. Like the time George took the Summit Seekers on a snow camping trip and found some students drinking alcohol in a tent. You’d think he would have confiscated the liquor, returned to his tent, and poured himself a stiff drink, right? Like any other adult leading teens on a snow camping trip would be tempted to do, right? Wrong. George ended the excursion then and there. They got out of bed, they packed up, they hiked back the to cars, and left for home… at 2 in the morning… in a snow storm. (Yes, I know it sounds crazy and, I think you are getting the point.) I could go on and on, as can George’s students and children. He has created a rich and spirited tradition of adventure in the outdoors coupled with a deep understanding of the need to respect and protect the land we love.  I am fortunate to work for a company with roots as deep and pure as these. It is a rare and blessed thing.

Goodwin Canyon 2012

I mean, if it weren’t for George (and our dedicated, hardcore, bad-to-the-bone guests) we wouldn’t have been on  Goodwin Canyon just three weeks ago having a BALL! And, I had better not leave out a big thank you to Mother Nature. We have already had two great storms, the Sierras are snow-capped, AND we have 5-6 days of rain ahead.  I repeat…there are so many reasons to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Goodwin Canyon Days Extended

October 17th, 2012 by Amy diVittorio

Yes, the secret got about Goodwin Canyon Days and the first weekend is full.  So, we are offering the special itinerary of double runs + BBQ on Saturday, Oct. 27th.  We call that Goodwin Canyon Days and most people out there call it a steal.  But you don’t have to take my word for it – you can read the Goodwin Canyon feedback for yourself.

We hope to see you soon on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. For a preview check out the video below taken by one of our guests.  It was a wild ride indeed.

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Goodwin Canyon Returns: Special Event and Itinerary Added!

September 25th, 2012 by aorafting

Every fall, Goodwin Canyon, a Class IV-IV+ river, makes an appearance for a short (and very exciting) two weeks. While it runs, we always want to take full advantage of this once a year phenomenon! This year is no exception. We will be ready to launch as soon as the water reaches optimum levels on Thursday, October 17th. In addition to our normal 1-Day itinerary, we’re celebrating this river with a special event and itinerary option! Here’s more info: (more…)

Class IV Rafting in October

September 21st, 2012 by cameron

Class IV rafting is reborn this October. Much like the phoenix, which expires and then is reborn in fire, class IV rafting will wear itself out at the end of September as the Middle Fork American River loses rafting flows but then resurges in the middle of October as the Goodwin Canyon opens for a limited time.

Quick, take out your planner, computer or smart phone and put these dates in it: October 17-October 29, October 19-October 22. These are our dates to run the Goodwin Canyon.

You might notice that the second set of dates happens within the first set. Well on these middle days we are going to be doing some special trips down the canyon; double runs with a barbecue lunch in between. That’s twice rafting and some tasty grilled food for exactly the same price.

Some things about the river: it flows through a beautiful and unique canyon. In place of granite boulders, marble-patterned igneous (volcano formed) rock frames the clear, blue-green water. The canyon walls are steep and high, and at the banks of the river are willows and cottonwoods. The milage is short, but the rapids are well worth it. Mr. Toads and Haunted House are powerful class IV+ rapids that provide a shock of adrenaline. Few people run the Goodwin Canyon, so you’ll be in for a rare rafting experience through a canyon not many people get to see.

Check out some footage of Haunted House:

Hello Goodwin Canyon

September 10th, 2012 by Malina

One door closes, another one opens…….as we say ciao-cito to the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek this week we’re happy to announce that Goodwin Canyon will soon be online once again!   A limited number of trips will be available Oct 17th to October 29th so you’ve only got a couple weeks to experience this unique class III-IV+ river.  Check out reviews from Goodwin Canyon rafters in 2011 or watch a brief Goodwin Canyon video to see what’s what about this rare opportunity.

Goodwin Canyon Fall 2012

July 30th, 2012 by Malina

There are plenty of options for California rafting right now, but don’t forget that in mid-October we’ll be hosting a series of rafting trips on Goodwin Canyon.  This is an unusual river trip because while most of the rapids are class III, there are two impressive Class IV+ rapids that spice up the day–Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Haunted House.  The canyon itself is also unusual because of its frequent waterfalls and lush environment in the midst of California Gold Rush country.  This river is also only 1.5-2  hours from the Bay Area so you could have a fabulous adventure on the water and still make it back for dinner at Zuni or some other hot spot . . .

We’ll give you more details about specific intineraries for Goodwin Canyon rafting a little later in the season!

Update on 2012 Goodwin Canyon Rafting Season

May 15th, 2012 by Malina

So if a tree falls in Goodwin Canyon, does it matter if no rafters were there to see it?  Turns out it does!  We were all set for a great little spring season on Goodwin Canyon but as soon as our bags were packed we had to re-rack because there is literally a tree blocking our path!  Nothing to do but look forward to the fall when the tree will be removed and we’ll have smooth sailing.  What can you do — rivers and conditions change all the time!  So, if you were psyched about a Class IV rafting trip on Goodwin this year, we’ll see you in a few months!  In the meantime, there’s always the Middle Fork of the American……or the Tuolumne!

Goodwin Canyon Season Looks Great for 2012

May 1st, 2012 by Malina

One of the “silver linings” of the snowpack/flow situation here in California this year is the opportunity to do spring raft trips on Goodwin Canyon.  As with last year, we’ll host our popular “Goodwin Canyon Days” in the Fall (more info on that later!), but we also have the chance to raft this unusual class IV run from now until May 24 as well.

Why so unusual?  Well, Goodwin Canyon is an isolated section of the Stanislaus River that offers a crazy combo of a steep volcanic gorge, a lush riparian environment (that’s fancy talk for “lots of greenery along the riverbank”), and a couple intense rapids punctuated by long mellow class III sections.  Sometimes there are even waterfalls along the river banks.  Goodwin Canyon is also super close to the Bay Area making it a quick getaway for you denizens of The City and surrounding areas.  Go to the Ferry Building or visit the de Young another weekend–check out Goodwin Canyon this spring instead!

Don’t take my word for it–read Goodwin Canyon rafting reviews from other rafters.

(Above: Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, class 4+ rapid on Goodwin Canyon)

Early October Rafting Update

October 4th, 2011 by Malina

Fall is officially here, but we are still officially rafting!  The Middle Fork of the American ended its season over the weekend, but we still have two fabulous California rivers we would love to share with you!  The South Fork of the American is of course still going strong.  No surprises there.  Class III rapids, changing fall colors, lots of privacy on the river–what’s not to love? 

The surprise of the season is that we can still offer you a class IV river trip on Goodwin Canyon, a finicky  river that needs everything to line up just so in order to be runnable.  And lucky for us, it’s runnable now  until the end of the month.  See what recent Goodwin rafters have had to say on our Goodwin reviews page.

(Above:  Class IV challenges on Goodwin Canyon . . .)