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Archive for the 'Tuolumne River' Category

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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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!