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Archive for the 'Tuolumne River' Category

Mordor? More Like the Shire. See the Tuolumne NOW

April 10th, 2014 by 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.

Rim Fire Update: Tuolumne River’s Road to Recovery

January 16th, 2014 by 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.


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

Have a Cocktail, Support Tuolumne River Recovery!

September 16th, 2013 by Malina


















The Good Folks at the Tuolumne River Trust have re-vamped their annual celebration of All Things Tuolumne in light of the Rim Fire.  Yes, there will be the usual cocktails, tasty snackies, and hob-nobbing.  But this year the focus will be on learning more about what we can expect in the aftermath of the fire–what the damage is, and how we can help.  Guest speakers include Firefighters and Forest Service folks.

RimFire_blaze_AORaftingAlthough the bulk of the work restoring the river canyon will fall to Mother Nature, there are things we human beings can do as well.  Roads will need to be re-built, plants can be re-seeded and planted.  Erosion control will help protect the river, wildlife, and access for things like fishing, hiking, and of course rafting.  All these efforts will take lots of time, effort, and boatloads of money.  If you’re in a position to help, get your ticket to the Call of the River Cocktails, Awards, and Rim Fire Rally September 26th at the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square.  You can get more information and tickets directly from the Tuolumne River Trust.

Not into cocktails or have plans on the 26th but still want to help?  Consider volunteering.  To learn more about opportunities to give some elbow grease to the effort contact: Rebecca at rebecca@tuolumne.org or call her at (415) 882-7252 ex 301.

(Top:  Smoke billows in front of the AO Rafting Tuolumne River warehouse and meet spot the first week of the fire–pic taken by AO guides Matt and Lynsey Bottom:  Image of flames taken by AO owner Gregg A)

UPDATE: Rim Fire’s Impact on California Rafting [MAP]

August 28th, 2013 by Jamie Low

UPDATE: (8/28/2013)
Not only are we running trips on the South and Middle Forks of the American River, but we are also running guided rafting trips on the  Goodwin Canyon run of the lower Stanislaus River in late October.  This post and the map have been updated to reflect this.  

Wondering how the American Fire near Foresthill and the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park is affecting river rafting trips in California?

The short answer is that we are thankfully still in full swing on the South Fork of the American River (until the end of October),  the Middle Fork of the American River (through the end of September), and on the Intermediate-Advanced Goodwin Canyon run in late October.

To help illustrate, we’ve adapted this satellite photo of the Rim Fire (adapted from this NASA satellite photo taken on Sunday August 25th) to clarify the difference between the Tuolumne and American River Watersheds, and what this means for planning your next vacation day on the river with us:

Rim Fire Map: Impact on California Rivers

Click on Map for Full Size Image: Map of Rim Fire Impact on California Rivers


Yes, there is plenty of very bad news in here; but there’s also some very good news: we’re far from done playing on the river.

The 2013 California Rafting Season Continues!

The American River Canyons: Open Through October
Both the South and Middle Forks of the American River, which remain unthreatened by either of these fires, will remain open through the end of their regularly scheduled seasons.  Our guides and reservation staff are still working (and playing) on the river until the end of the California rafting season, which continues on throughout the month of October. (Yes, that’s right; we’ll say it again: we run trip all the way through October!)

In fact, this week we launched a new Facebook Sweepstakes for a chance to win a whitewater rafting trip for two people on one of these rivers!  We will pick a new winner every week; all you have to do is enter once, and you are automatically registered for a chance to win every single week until the sweepstakes ends at the end of September.  All you have to do is Like our Facebook page and submit your email address so we can notify you of the results.  So whether you’re thinking about a trip this fall, or want to wait until next Summer, you might want to sign up now.

Goodwin Canyon: October 19th – 27th, 2013 (Intermediate – Advanced)
Looking for a bit more whitewater excitement closer to the San Francisco Bay Area?  This is one of our guests’ favorite day trips, due to the short drive and high adventure waiting for those who choose to take advantage of the late Fall water releases from the upstream dam.  This canyon is unlike any other we explore, and it doesn’t run very often.  If you haven’t checked it off your California River Top Ten list yet, late October will be your only chance to get it done.  Take a look at our Goodwin Canyon photos and river description page to see if you and your friends are up for it, or call 1-800-247-2387 to talk it out with one of our river specialists.

Tuolumne River & Cherry Creek: Closed Due to Rim Fire
Unfortunately, the Tuolumne River and Cherry Creek canyons are currently closed to public access, and we have cancelled the remainder of our scheduled trips there for the season.  Gregg Armstrong recently detailed what we know about the impact to these canyons, and in a follow up post he describes All-Outdoors’ first-hand account of evacuating from the area last week.

As soon as we are allowed to enter the canyon, we hope to report back here with our observations on the after effects of the fire. While we don’t yet know the extent of the damage,  we are very hopeful of the long term recovery of the watershed, its ecosystem and our own future return to a place we have long considered our home.

If you are currently booked on the Tuolumne or Cherry Creek, or reservations staff has either already contacted you, or will be notifying you soon regarding your trip.  You can also contact us if you have any questions.

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Rim Fire: AO Rafting’s Front Row Experience

August 26th, 2013 by Gregg Armstrong

This is what AO Rafting experienced as the Rim Fire began a week ago.


RimFire_blaze_AORaftingOn Saturday, August 17, a small fire started in the Clavey River drainage, a few miles north of the starting point for All-Outdoors’ Tuolumne Class IV trips and the ending point for Cherry Creek Class V trips.


On Sunday, August 18, Scott Armstrong, myself, and 10 outfitters from around the country entered the canyon. We were planning a 3-Day Tuolumne River trip beginning on Monday, August 19.


As we passed the Rim of the World vista point on Hwy 120 that afternoon (where the fire got its name) we noticed a small amount of white smoke rising from the Clavey River area. The fire did not look very threatening (see photo from my phone below right). Three planes were flying in circles dumping retardant on the smoky areas and it seemed to all of us that this fire would soon be under control.


We spent the night at the Yosemite Riverview Inn near the rim of the canyon. The roads into the Tuolumne were closed on Monday so that fire crews could go in and out without delay. On Monday morning the fire reached the north bank of RimFire_dayonethe river and unexpectedly jumped to the south side. This is when things began to heat up. There’s much more fuel (trees) on the south side, and by mid day the sky became dark and orange from the smoke and fire and ash was falling on us and the surrounding area (see photo from my phone at top left).


The Inn we were staying in was on the south rim. It did not take long to realize we were in the fire’s path. We immediately began to evacuate.  After we were packed and out, Scott headed to our warehouse at Casa Loma, 4 miles west on Hwy 120 with one of the outfitters from North Carolina to remove gear and vehicles, and water down buildings before the fire arrived. One of our competitors has their headquarters at the same location and we wanted to help him evacuate as well.


I headed to Sierra Mac’s warehouse (another competitor) a mile west on Hwy 120 with 9 of the other outfitters to help him evacuate as well. This location was in the immediate path of the fire and it was moving so quickly that we only had minutes to get out.


By the time Scott got to our warehouse, the fire had reached Hwy 120 and jumped the road. We would be separated by the fire for the next two days. A few minutes after we got to the Sierra Mac warehouse, a Cal Fire Firefighter drove up and told us we had 5 only minutes to pack whatever we want and get out of there.


Scott was able to get everything out of our warehouse and we were able to get the most valuable things out of Sierra Mac’s warehouse. I, and the folks I was with, drove out of the “closed” area to the Cal Fire blockade on Hwy 120 and watched the blaze continue up the canyon toward Yosemite. The fire was so hot that it created its own rain clouds that produced ash-filled rain drops and loud thunder above us.


Scott left our warehouse to move gear and vehicles further away from the fire that had changed direction and was concentrating most of its force toward us. Later that evening Scott and the outfitter from North Carolina returned to our warehouse at Casa Loma to find that the winds had changed the fire was starting back his direction again. They spent several hours watering down buildings and finally at 1:00 am had to evacuate again as the fire neared the area. Fortunately it never made it the buildings. We hope it never does.


For the next two days we helplessly watched the fire grow as it consumed pristine forest and created an atomic bomb like cloud of smoke that reached 40,000 feet. By the time we left on Wednesday afternoon, the small fire we saw on Sunday from the Rim of the World had grown into a massive blaze that was consuming trees as if they were matches and made the world we were in seem like a war zone.



Impact of Rim Fire on the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek

August 24th, 2013 by Gregg Armstrong

Many of you are no doubt wondering how the Rim Fire has developed and the impact it will have on Tuolumne and Cherry Creek river trips. We’ll have better understanding over time, of course, but here is what I have been able to gather so far.

Rim Fire Facts and Figures:
On Wednesday, August 21 at 8am the fire had consumed 15,000 acres. By Wednesday evening, it had consumed 30,000 acres. By Thursday morning 60,000. By Friday morning over 100,000 acres and as of today (8/24) it is over 125,ooo acres.

Toward the east it is now burning inside Yosemite Park near Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and is threatening to continue to move to the Tuolumne Meadows area and toward Yosemite Valley.

Toward the south and west it is burning very near Pine Mountain Lake where there are 2400 homes; residents have been evacuated. The small town of Groveland, located 6 miles west is under advisory evacuation notice.

As of today, over 2000 firefighters are working to control the blaze along with 8 helicopters, 25 engines, and several fixed winged aircraft. The cost of fighting the fire so far is $5.2 million, and the fire is only 5% contained. Sixteen structures have burned and 4500 are threatened. Only one known injury has occurred and no fatalities.

The Impact on the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek
The section of river canyon through which our Tuolumne trips travel has sustained some damage, but not that much. The upper section below the starting point for the trips has burned, but mostly on the north side which is predominantly grass lands. Fortunately, the south side which contains most of the trees, has been protected.

The Cherry Creek Canyon has not been as fortunate and has sustained more damage because it was upstream of where everything started. The fire has been following the canyon up toward Yosemite since Monday. At this points the details of the fire damage to the Cherry Creek Canyon are hard to tell, and we will only know once we are able to enter the canyon again.

Season Cancellation and Long-Term Outlook
We have canceled all trips on Cherry Creek and the Tuolumne for the rest of season because access into the canyon isn’t possible. The season on both sections of river normally closes after Labor Day so we’re not able to finish the final two weeks of the year. That is a relatively small problem compared to many other users of the forest and area.

During the past 50 years of running rivers in California canyons, we have experienced several fires such as the Rim Fire. We are always pleasantly surprised to find that canyons have never been damaged to point of no repair and have bounced back relatively quickly compared to heavily forested areas like Yosemite National Park. When it comes to this fire, we are not concerned as much about the river canyon as we are about Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite.

While some say fires are a necessary part of keeping nature in balance, it’s hard to imagine that some of the beautiful forested lands we drove through and stayed in just a few days ago are now smoldering ash fields that better represent a moon scape than an earth scape. Let’s all hope the fire does not continue to burn as it as been doing since this past week.

We will post an update on the fire next week.

Until then,

Gregg Armstrong
Co-Owner All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting

For most recent update on the fire go to:

For video clips from planes fighting the fire go to:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3q1gzeSC1w &


Rim Fire:Tuolumne and Cherry Creek Season Over for 2013

August 24th, 2013 by Malina

Due to the massive “Rim Fire” near Yosemite, we have cancelled the rest of the rafting season on the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek.  All of our guides are safe and sound, and have come home to our American River operation.

Two of AO Rafting’s owners were actually working on the Tuolumne when the fire broke out and witnessed its incredible power first hand.  Gregg A will be giving you a full report about what he experienced soon.

Here in our home base in El Dorado county, the air is heavy with smoke and there is ash on cars and plants; we can only imagine what people closer to fire are seeing and wish good speed and safety to the amazing fire crews fighting this blaze.

How to Pack for your Multi-Day River Trip

August 10th, 2012 by Malina

Leave the 10 person tent, head-to-toe mosquito netting, and battery-operated blender at home people–packing for a multi-day river trip starts with thinking “less is more.”  For starters, we provide you with most of the infrastructure you need–all your on-river gear, kitchen supplies and food.   If you want some **adult bevvies** you’re welcome to bring them, although keg stands/beer bongs aren’t very neighborly.  Functionality the next day, people–keep it in mind.  

 What you really need to provide is your personal stuff.  Your shorts and swimming suit, your sunscreen and toothbrush, those things.  Also a sleeping bag and a camp mattress of some kind.  You really don’t need a tent–our guides never bring them and they’re out on the river all summer long so they know what they’re doing.  Of course if you reeeeeeeeeeeeeaaallly reeeeeeeeeaally love to wrestle with a tent, and are confident you won’t poke somebody’s eyes out with the poles or initate divorce proceedings as part of the set-up process, feel free to bring a small tent, but we don’t think you’ll actually miss it.  Or want to waste valuable leisure time in setting up and breaking it down . . .

For a full list of what to bring see the “maps and travel details” pages for the river you’re traveling to on our website: South Fork Two-Day List, Middle Fork Two-Day list, Tuolumne Two-Day list.

One Month Left for Tuolumne and Cherry Creek Rafting

August 6th, 2012 by Malina

As much we love the T and the Creek we have to say goodbye.  Not quite yet of course–but the farewell is on the horizon.  No more trips after the first weekend of September!  Not ‘cuz we don’t wanna………….but because the big boys at the dam are literally going to shut off the water.  I mean not totally.  No dry riverbed or anything , but only enough for the fishes……..not enough for rafters.  So make your plans before it’s too late.

One, two, and three day trips are available on the Tuolumne (pictured on the left there) River.  Cherry Creek rafting trips are one day only, but if you want to see it twice, we’re happy to oblige.  You can also do a combo of the two rivers.  If you want to start at the top and stay in the canyon the whole time you’ll do Cherry Creek the first day (so you’re starting with the hard stuff! Class five right out of the gate!) and then move into the Main Tuolumne for the next one or two days.  If you want to work up to the class five stuff–a perfectly respectable thing to do–you can start of the Main Tuolumne, get some class IV and IV+ experience under your belt and then go to Cherry Creek on the last day.  Whatever suits your fancy, we have the Tuolumne Cherry Creek combo trip for you!

Mid-Season Flow Update for California Rivers

July 16th, 2012 by Malina

It’s misdummer and although free-run rivers are down to a fish-flow trickle there are still plenty of options for California River enthusiasts.  Here’s the low-down on your current options  from mellowist to maximum gnarl:

Super chill:  The section of the South Fork of the American that runs through the Coloma-Lotus Valley is a gentle class II float.  We designed our “Tom Sawyer Float Trip” with young kids in mind because the placid waters and small riffles let us meander downstream and leave time for blackberry picking, games, and adventures in an inflatable kayak or innertube for those who are feeling intrepid.  This section has reliable flows of 1300-1700 CFS everyday of the week but Wednesday.

Class III: The South Fork of the American River is one of the most heavily dam-controlled rivers in the state.  Not great for wildlife, and not without controversy–but of course also a very reliable summer river as a result.   We have been seeing good flows of 1300-1700 CFS 6 days a week on the South Fork, which are great for a fun class III river trip.

Class IV: The Middle Fork of the American is one of the “sister forks” to the South Fork.  They’re very different places though–the Middle Fork is a solid class IV run with more challenging rapids, a steeper and more remote canyon, and more time on the water.  We are seeing flows everyday of the week that range from 850-1250 CFS.  Perfect conditions!

Class IV-V:  The Tuolumne River is also dam-controlled, which allows us to raft its protected Wild and Scenic waters all summer long.  Flows rise and fall each day with dam releases, typically peaking around 1200 CFS.  Plenty of water to get your blood a’ pumpin’ before Clavey Falls . . .

Class V:  Cherry Creek is the ultimate “summertime river trip” in that it can only be run in the summer months.  During the spring run-off period there is actually too much water to run this extreme run.  Extreme and challenging we like, ridiculous, we don’t.  So, we wait each for flows to come down to raft the Creek.  Trips will continue into very early September on Cherry Creek in 2012.