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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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Occupy Merced River

June 27th, 2013 by Malina

imgp0304-225x300The Merced River needs your help.  If you’ve rafted the Merced–and there are thousands of you, we know because we tightened your life jacket and reminded you to put on sunscreen–it’s time to pay it forward a little.

Here’s the situation.  One of California’s State Senators–Tom McClintock for those of you who like to keep track–has proposed removing the Merced’s federally-protected status as a “Wild and Scenic” river.  Why?  Does he think the Merced is instead “tame and ugly?” Possibly, but the real point is that if the Merced River loses its protected status it would allow the government to raise the level of the McClure Reservoir, drowning part of the Merced.  And this, friends, would be sad.  But even sadder is the precident it would set.


Merced_mini_3_Mike_OsbornThink about it–any river that is currently protected would basically be up for grabs.  What’s the point of protecting a public resource in the first place if anytime that protection becomes inconvenient for someone it can be taken away?  What’s next–a dam upstream that floods Yosemite?  So take a wee minute and write to your Senators US Representative and ask each of them to vote a resounding NO on HR 934!!!


If you want to learn more–and of course you do, I may be slick but why would you take my word as gospel–a good place to start is Friends of the River, which can give you lots of background on the Merced River and which also offers an easy-as-pie form you can fill out to take action lickety-split!

Mini-extension for Merced River Rafting

May 28th, 2013 by Malina

261615_10151410774292344_1589753647_nWhile recent cooler temperatures may be a downer for tomato farmers and sunbathers, they are boon to Merced River rafters this year.  The cooling trend has helped to preserve the snowpack–plunging nightime temps help (literally) solidify the snowpack so there’s more for the daytime melt.

Don’t start looking at your August calendar for a Yosemite-area getaway (unless you want to see the Tuolumne), but we do think we’ll have an extra week of rafting trips on the Merced for you this year.  At this point–and of course we’ll keep you updated–we predict the weekend of June 8-9 will the final opportunity for the Merced in 2013.


(Left: Merced River guide Joe E May 11, 2013)

Merced River Rafting 2013

May 18th, 2013 by Malina

joemSpringtime rafters, the Mighty Mer(ced) is calling you!  Unlike the Tuolumne, which will run all summer long, the Merced’s season is dependant on run-off, which means it’s a fleeting experience each year.  Veteran ao rafting guide Joe M is at the helm again, manning our Merced River operation and he and his tip-top crew are fired up to point your boat downstream and start teein’ off this river’s famous wave trains with you!

They’ll be down there waiting to tighten your life jacket and give you stories to taunt all your co-workers with on Monday until early June–so you’ve only got a couple weeks left to make your plans happen.

(Left: Join Joe!  Look how excited he is to take you rafting!)

Merced River Threatened by Congress

June 26th, 2012 by Malina

We don’t typically get too political here at AO, but when it comes to the rivers we raft, watch out for the Mama Grizzly in us to make an appearence!  The deal right now is that the Merced River–which has been designated a Wild and Scenic River and is therefore supposed to be protected long-term from development/meddling–is under attack.   What Congress wants to do is raise the water level in Lake McClure.  The problem is that by doing that, several miles of the protected section of the Merced River will get buried and drowned.  We realize we have water management issues in California, but the problem here is that such an action renders the Wild and Scenic protection currently enjoyed by the Merced–and other rivers like the Tuolumne–meaningless.  This is legislation that has been around since 1968 and we’re afraid that if the Merced takes a hit it will set a serious and dangerous precident.  The House has already approved this action.  The Senate is next.  If you care about this issue an easy thing for you to do is write to or call Dianne Fienstein or Barbara Boxer and let them know you disapprove of gutting Wild and Scenic protection for California–or any American–rivers.

Want to learn more about this issue before you act?  Good call.  Start here, and read the Fresno Bee article on the matter.  Or, go the official governement website detailing the Wild and Scenic Act.   Friends of the River also has lots of information.

Merced River Rafting is D-O-N-E done for 2012

June 7th, 2012 by Malina

That’s it, the Merced is offline!  If you want to raft in the Yosemite Valley area, best turn your attention to the Tuolumne River.  It’s not sourced in Yosemite like the Merced is, but it’s still close enough to add on to the family visit to Yosemite National Park.   And as a protected Wild and Scenic River, it won’t disappoint after the beautiful wilderness of Yosemite Valley!  A remote canyon, solid class III-IV whitewater, and of course your charming Tuolumne hosts, AO Rafting guides, what’s not to love?

(Above:  Rapids on the Tuolumne River)

Strike while the Merced is hot……

May 17th, 2012 by Malina

MENo marathon season on the Mighty Mer this year folks — if you’re wanting to get in the triple crown of Half-Dome-Yosemite-Waterfalls — Merced-River-Rafting this year, you gotta act fast!  We’ll be out on the Merced River rafting away into early June.  The weather is beautiful, wildflowers are blooming and the Merced is always fun.  But not for long this year………….as always we’ll update you on the latest info about the season as soon as we know.

Last Week for Merced Rafting Trips

July 26th, 2011 by Malina

Heading to Yosemite this week?  This is your last chance to add on a Merced River rafting trip to your vacay!  Last trip is Sunday and we’re takin’ kids as young as 13 so bring em on. 

We’ve had a good and long season on the Mighty Mer, as we call her, but yes, it’s true, all good things must come to an end and here we are. At. The End.

Kaweah and Merced River Rafting Over for 2010

July 25th, 2010 by Malina

That’s it!  No more Kaweah, no more Merced.  We’re cleared out of the bug,  said goodbye to Dorletta and her tasty burgers for the year, and put the Merced t-shirts in storage until next year.  If you missed these rivers this year turn your attention to the trifecta of summer-long reliability that are the South and  Middle Forks of the American River, and the Tuolumne.

Merced White Water Rafting: Final Weekends!

July 15th, 2010 by Malina

The end is nigh for the Mighty Merced River this year.  Even this year’s wunderbar snowpack couldn’t hold up forever….

The next two weekends we’ll have fun water on the Merced and then the river will become too low to raft for the rest of the summer.  So, if you were hoping to add a Merced white water rafting trip to a Yosemite outing this year, hope your bags are packed because the end is in sight! 

Not sure this river is for you?  Don’t forget you can take a virtual gander by checking out our Merced white water rafting video!