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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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Holy Flooding on the North Fork American River!

March 22nd, 2012 by Malina

Scott A, the intrepid man at the helm of AO Rafting recently headed out into the deluge to check out the waterfalls and mayhem on the North Fork of the American River, which always  puts out a great show after spring rains.

The photos he took on his rainy hike (yes, he’s a bad *** but no, he wasn’t out there rafting this! 18 grand really is too high — we’ve maxed out at 5,500 in the past) really capture the difference between “normal” and “high water.”  In the first picture you see the Chamberlain Falls rapid running at 18,000 CFS.  Yes, that’s 18 GRAND.  In the next, you see it at normal flows of 1200-1500 CFS.  Quite a difference, no?  That huge boulder you see above the guide in the white helmet is completely submerged in the flood picture if that helps you get a picture of the transformation this kind of leap in CFS causes.


In these other pics look at the difference in the color of the water–not only is the canyon flooded but that beautiful green the North Fork is known for is completely clouded with swirling mud and debris from the storm.


To get a feel of how this river looks and operates during standard spring flows, check out our North Fork American River Rafting Video.

Hiking the North Fork

September 4th, 2009 by aorafting

IMG_2423If you’re looking for a great end of summer hike, look no further than the North Fork of the American River. This 4.5 mile trek combines rock hopping and lazy floats in emerald pools. You’ll be river hiking along the class IV whitewater section from Iowa Hill Bridge to Yankee Jims Bridge. At this time of year the flows on the river are low because this section is not dammed. So, you won’t witness any of the huge whitewater (that’s when you’ll want to go rafting on this section–wink, wink) but you will see what’s under the water like some pretty incredible boulders and how high the water line is in the spring when the canyon narrows. If you take some goggles, I’d imagine the fish/river creature sighting is pretty good too. Best time to take this hike is in August and September because the water’s low and warm like bathwater.

IMG_2419We took daypacks with sustenance for the day. Be aware that this can be an all day hike. We took our time and spent eight hours in the canyon, with an hour for lunch and a few breaks, but it could probably be done in 6 hours at a steady pace. A good way to add buoyancy to your pack when you’re floating is to put a small, air-filled dry bag inside. If you’re willing to sacrifice the bottom of your pack, I’d also recommend grommeting in a few holes for quick drainage–my pack had no holes and I was water logged and sloshing around after every pool…but the seclusion of the canyon and the escape from the heat made it worth the weight.

IMG_2417The road to Yankee Jim’s Bridge is just off I-80 East close to Colfax. A good place to meet up with your shuttle is at the Weimar Cross Rd Park and Ride on the right side of the Interstate just off the Weimar Cross Rd exit. Take Canyon Way east to Yankee Jims Rd and turn right. The road to Yankee Jims Bridge is pretty much dirt and parking is more secluded. Iowa Hill Rd is 3.5 miles east on I-80 from Weimar Cross Rd–the road is paved and there are more cars parked here typically. IMG_2418

Memorial Day Holiday: Last Chance for North Fork American River Trip

May 19th, 2008 by Malina

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may……make hay while the sun shines…..or in this case, before the sunshine melts all the snow in the North Fork American watershed!

Since we’ve had all this unseasonably warm weather we think the North Fork is going to have one last weekend with good flows and it’s coming up!  This class IV river isn’t dam controlled, so it tends to have a rather short season that is completely dependant on Mother Nature.  It’s had a great season so far–we’ve been out there for lots of trips–but it looks like this coming weekend will be it for 2008 and then we’ll pack up our NFA operation for another year.  We still have room on our May 24-5 trips, so if you have time off for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, come up and join us for some high adventure North Fork style.

We have a slideshow and a video of the North Fork so you can get a taste of its emerald water and powerful, class IV hydraulics.  The images are cool–but reality is better, so dig out your sunscreen and get on board.

Spring Rafting: North Fork American River Video

April 13th, 2008 by Malina

After a winter hitting the slopes or (more likely) spending far too much time indoors, the North Fork American River is often one of the first whitewater trips of the year . . . the perfect “welcome back to the river” outing for many AO guides and guests alike. We recently launched a wonderful video of a North Fork rafting trip from last spring:

The American River system has three forks–the North, South and Middle Forks–and all have their charms.  But for springtime rafting trips, the North Fork takes the cake.  It may not have the flood of poppies nature unleashes on the slopes of Mount Murphy in Coloma above the South Fork, and it may not have the celebrity status of the Middle Fork’s Tunnel Chute rapid, but it does have beautiful green water rushing past (more…)

Hiking Along the North Fork American

January 28th, 2008 by Robyn Suddeth


dsc_0416.jpgDespite freezing cold temperatures, muddy roads, and the more important fact that there are only about 100 cubic feet per second of water flowing downstream, I am still inextricably drawn to the river! What with the holiday season, and the weeks of trying to get myself organized again after the holidays, it had been a few months since the last time I ventured into a river canyon, or done anything active at all for that matter. So, dragging my innocent parents and visiting aunt along, I took a little walk last weekend down to the North Fork American River, on a trail that I would easily recommend to anyone else needing a new place to explore…


dsc_0437.jpgThe trail is called the Euchre Bar Trail, and winds down to the put-in for what is known in the boating world as the Giant Gap Run. This stretch of river lies above the more commonly visited “Chamberlain’s Run”, where All Outdoors offers trips in the spring months. Giant Gap is not usually rafted commercially, partly because of its Class V difficulty rating, but mostly because of the fact that you cannot drive there. Instead, you park your car at an incredibly scenic turnout a few miles off Highway 80, (more…)

(Video) North Fork American River Rafting Trip, May 5, 2007

May 5th, 2007 by Jamie Low

Video from last Saturday’s rafting trip on the North Fork American River:

YouTube Preview Image

AO Guides: Hunter Donaldson, Naomi Donovan, Scott Armstrong, Danny Walker, Matt Nunes, Amy diVitorrio, Eric Voosen, Dan Weir, Claudette Van Gordon,

Videographer: Ben Zupo Photography

High Water on the North Fork American

May 4th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

This last Friday, eight guides and thirteen brave guests set out to attempt All Outdoors’ first trip on the North Fork of the American River at somewhere between 4500 and 5000 cfs. (The highest commercial trip AO has ever run out there.)


The Shortest Swim Ever

April 19th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

This last Saturday, Randy and Scott Armstrong organized a fun guides trip down the North Fork of the American River. The point was mainly to have a good time, but also to see what the river behaved like at around 4500 cfs. (A pretty high flow for the North Fork.) Kevin Elardi and I were paddling for Scott in the lead boat, and Brian Coleman guided the second boat with Hunter, Lindsey and Dan paddling. Before putting on the water, Scott informed Kevin and I that we were picked for the lead boat because he figured we were the most capable swimmers in the group. (Very comforting.)


Mark Reiner Photography: New Pictures From 2005 Whitewater Rafting Season!

March 10th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth


Yesterday, at 12 noon, they were finally revealed… Mark Reiner‘s collection of photos from the 2005 rafting season! All of us guides and some of our guests from this last summer may have noticed that Mark Reiner, a fellow guide and professional photographer, was working hard all season to document rafting trips on all the rivers that All Outdoors runs. (A few people took so much notice, in fact, that they completely forgot about paddling in order to model the perfect smile or paddle-in-the-air-wahoooo… Mark did a great job of catching their ensuing swims.) Ever since then, we’ve all been waiting with much anticipation to see the final product.