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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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Where in the World is AO? Pura Vida en Costa Rica!

February 13th, 2013 by Amy diVittorio

Dave and Jason, Playa Uvita, Costa Rica

Seems we may have a migratory pattern evolving with our AO staff.  Ever since Pam, former guide and manager of AO’s Merced operation, established a unique beach-side hostel in Playa Uvita, Costa Rica the AO migration has only increased. It’s no coincidence she calls it The Flutterby House. We’ve got AO guides migrating there like a bunch of Monarchs.

While many AO folks of past and present have visited, two of AO’s favorites are spending their winters “working” at Pam’s brain child. In the Spring Dave manages the North Stanislaus River and in the hot summer months he’ll guide you down Clavey Falls on the T or drive you up the narrow Middle Fork take-out road (beads of sweat dripping from his brow!). But today, my friends, he is on a much-deserved stay-cation. He is reported to be as  giddy as a carefree 12 year old whose biggest concern is fitting in surf sessions in between fresh ceviche, karaoke en español, and a little “work”.  Seems Dave has really taken to heart the local saying in Costa Rica, “Pura vida” (pure life).


Dave and Jason donning AO threads!

Also roughing it the tropics is Jason, one of our favorite South Fork/Middle Fork  guides. Armed with some Rosetta Stone Spanish lessons and a smile  Jason is learning about toros, purrujas, and surfing(ocean-style).

We miss them both and can’t wait to see them in April for early season rafting.

Sayonara Stanislaus

August 8th, 2011 by Malina

Cue Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman singing “Time tooooooooooo Say Goodbyyyyyyyyyyyye…….” because our season on the North Fork of the Stanislaus is over.  The Stan had an incredible run this year, and we had thought that it would be continuing well into August, but the Powers That Be made some changes so presto!  Season over.  We’ve learned to roll with it–no choice!–but this was unexpected for sure.

One bright spot in the class IV dept though is that Goodwin Canyon is running right now.  Another surprise!  We only get to run this striking class IV river every few years, so strike while the iron is hot if you’re interested.  Call us for more info and possible trip availability.

New Video: North Fork Stanislaus (6/26/11 trip)

August 3rd, 2011 by Roxanne

If I had to pick a river that gives me butterflies every time I hear its name… brings back memories of high sides, steep drops, twisty technical turns, and quite the adrenaline rush, it would be the North Fork Stanislaus. Oh what a gem!

It was my third time rafting and I was excited for my first Class IV+ challenge. Little did I know, I would fall in love with this river. The high-alpine scenery and feeling of being on a fast creek, rather than a big river, was so different than anything I had experienced.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy my interpretation of a perfect day on the North Stan. This new video features snippets from a high-water trip (the highest we had run this season), on June 26, 2011.

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Were you on this trip? Or any North Stan trip? Share your experience with us by writing a review!

North Stan Having the Season of its Life!

July 19th, 2011 by Malina

We just got a bunch of official numbers from the Powers That Be on the North Stanislaus River and let me tell you, this is an unusual season.  We’ve had high water well-past the normal time zone, snowy rafting trips, massive logs across the river to contend with, and now, an end date that is practically unbelievable.  Usually, we’re packed up and out of the Stan by early June. This year though, our guides are pretty much having to get PO boxes and change their driver’s licenses because we have plenty water for Stan trips well into August

The North Stan is a class IV river with beautiful scenery and lots of technical drops.  Plenty to amuse the experienced rafter, and a good old-fashioned challenged for the adventerous first-timer.  Teenagers who are ready to get after it are also welcome on the Stan–the age minimum is 15.

Want a sneak peak before you commit? Check out our river video:


Last Chance for North Stan Rafting 2010

June 18th, 2010 by Malina

The end is nigh for North Stan rafting trips this year!  Based on the snowpack in the North Stan watershed and the weather forecast we think there are only two more weekends of raftable flows on this outstanding class IV run.  What I’m sayin’ is, it’s time to quit yer hemmin’ and hawin’ and make your plans before it’s too late. 

Don’t forget you can watch our fabulous North Stan rafting video to see what this river is all about.  Also check out our photo gallery from this year’s SNOWY STAN trips, too!  (Don’t you worry, no more snow to contend with for the last trips of the year)

Warm Temps = Higher water on California Rivers

May 12th, 2009 by Malina

mf-aGood news for spring rafters!  The strong snowpack from winter 2009, combined with this week’s warming trend, mean water levels are rising on springtime rafting trips.  This might mean free-flowing rivers like the Merced will have slightly shorter seasons, but conditions are wonderful right now.   It’s really an even trade in the end–especially if you’re looking for high water, big hydraulics, and powerful currents.   Dam-controlled rivers have plenty of water for long, solid seasons.

Be sure to catch the North Fork of the Stanislaus while flows are up there.  (After the melt is over, the North Folk will be too low for rafting trips.)  Don’t forget the South Fork of the American either–the hills are still green, wildflowers are still out, and higher flows make the South Fork extra fun.  Faster spring water also makes whole river trips–rafting all the way from Chili Bar to Salmon Falls–a fantastic day.  If you usually raft the South Fork in the summer months, this time of year will give you a whole new perspective!

North Stanislaus River Rafting Video

August 9th, 2008 by Tessa Sibbet

The North Stanislaus River flows only during a short period in the springtime, usually in late April and May. Unlike other Class IV Sierra runs, the North Stan is a high elevation run (nearly 5000 feet at put-in), lined by redwood trees and filled with enormous granite boulders. The North Stan is one of the most picturesque rivers in California and becomes a favorite run for anyone who gets the opportunity to raft there. We recently launched a North Stanislaus rafting video produced by Ben Zupo, one of the camera men for the hit TV show, The Deadliest Catch. You can watch it here:

North Fork Stanislaus and Goodwin Canyon Resurrected

August 7th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

IMGP0560blog.JPGWe all thought we had seen the last of the Stanislaus River for this year, but lately it’s had a few surprises in store for us…

We had left the North Stan for “dead” this year– dried out, done, finito. We were sure, a few weekends ago, that we had seen the last of run-able flows on that river, and that this year’s incredibly huge snowpack had finally exhausted itself. But then, being the nerdy river addicts we are, we did what we do at least once every few weeks: went online and just for the heck of it looked up the flows for all of California’s rivers… (more…)

The Boat That Wouldn’t Budge

July 14th, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

Wrap (n): The less-than-ideal situation in which a boat is held against a rock or boulder in the river for an indeterminant amount of time by the force of the current.

IMGP0453-blog.jpgWhen I and seven other guides got to the North Stanislaus this last Sunday morning and hiked down to look at the boat that was wrapped in the first rapid, we were amazed. I personally had never seen a wrap anything like it before. Most of the boat was under water, with a hole backing up on it and pounding it further and further against the rock. Literally half of the boat was wrapped around the left side of the boulder, and the other half wrapped around the right, giving no advantage to pulling from either direction. Of course, the boat had had two days by that point in time to get itself good and stuck: The initial wrap had actually occured Friday afternoon, IMGP0443blog.jpgwhen four boats set off to do All-Outdoors’ last trip on the Stan before flows dropped to a level too low to run. In the very first rapid of the day, Beginner’s Luck, two of those four boats wrapped. One of them came off fairly easily, and the other one,well, the other one is still there…

On Sunday, eight of us (none of whom had been on that trip on Friday) met at 9 am on the North Stanislaus with a lot of ropes, pulleys, carabiners, and throw bags. Our mission? To recover that wrapped boat and bring it home. (more…)