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All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting Blog

Read up on everything related to whitewater rafting on California rivers with All-Outdoors

Top Five things to check out after a South Fork Rafting Trip

July 7th, 2014 Malina

Yes, the South Fork American is a great day trip from the Bay Area and Sacramento, but what if you have extra time and want to fill up the whole weekend?  Should you go to Napa instead?  Or head to the coast?  Not so fast, my pretties.  I’m not saying I’d turn either one down– I totally would not, I am aware of the pastries at Bouchon Bakery and the Oysters at Hog Island–but what I am saying is that you can make quite a lovely weekend here in our sleepy Coloma-Lotus Valley. You don’t even have to go to Placerville or Apple Hill.  You can stay right here and have a grand ol’ time the day after your river trip.

1) Sleep Somewhere Awesome.

Eden Vale Resort

First, wake up at Eden Vale Inn.  Which is not actually in the Valley, but  . . . it’s like 10 minutes from our office and that’s pretty close.  Eden Vale is one of those places that you see the brochure and you think “that looks great.  Too great.  They must be stock photos so I’m heading to the Best Western where I know exactly what I’m gonna get.”  But friends, I have been to Eden Vale and I wanted to stay forever.  Like I wanted to move in.  It’s as beautiful as you want it to be.  If you are a purist and are offended I suggested you leave our fair valley please relax and visit the swanky Bella Vista B and B instead.

Read more…

South Fork American Rafting Video

July 7th, 2014 Malina

Take a virtual tour of the Fair Lady South Fork with us, your gallant hosts, AO Rafting!   Harken to the thrill of class III rapids,  take thee a gander at the riverbank where nodding blackberries doth ripen in the summer sun.  Lo, there is the Lollipop Tree!  But enough of these musings, friends, just watch the South Fork American rafting video!

Slideshow: Middle Fork of the American River Two Day Rafting Trips

June 9th, 2014 Malina

  • Entering The Middle Fork of the American River CanyonPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Taking the boats to put-inPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • Forward Paddle!Photo: Mark Reiner
  • scouting tunnel chute rapidPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • guides and crews discuss the planPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • No way! This is so cool!Photo: Mark Reiner
  • surrounded by whitewaterPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • The Final DropPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • floating into the tunnelPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • Class IV Rapid: Thread The NeedlePhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Ready for lunch?Photo: Mark Reiner
  • pulling over for lunch and side hikePhoto: Luis Escobar
  • exploring slot canyons & waterfallsPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • hanging out with friendsPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • Waterfall in Dardanelle CanyonPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Reconnecting with friendsPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • back on the waterPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • Enjoying a calm stretchPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • unloading boats at campPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • playing riverside horseshoes Photo: Luis Escobar
  • fishing before dinnerPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • catching a momentPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Dinner's on the grillPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Camp at NightPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • Waking Up With CoffeePhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Morning in campPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • floating downstreamPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Paddling Inflatable KayaksPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Day Two Side Hike: Canyon CreekPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Waterfalls in Canyon CreekPhoto: Mark Reiner
  • time for familyPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Class IV Rapid: CleavagePhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Class IV Rapid: Parallel ParkingPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Class IV Rapid: CatapultPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Take Out at trip's endPhoto: Luis Escobar
  • Wishing it wasn't overPhoto: Luis Escobar

The Middle Fork of the American is one of our favorite rivers.  It’s close to our home base in Lotus, but once you get in the canyon you feel like you’re a million miles away.  The steep canyon walls are home to mature native trees, wildlife a plenty, and create a beautiful backdrop for wild rapids and placid stretches of calm water that invite day dreams and flights of fancy.  Our slideshow catches a whiff of the magic . . .

To learn more about the photographers featured here visit Luis Escobar online at

Adam Beasley is a singer-songwriter based in El Dorado county.  “Summer Song,” featured here, was recorded by an older incarnation of Adam’s band called North of Fifty. You can find him and his current band Uncommon Ground online (and get dates for live shows) at:

2014 California Summer Rafting Season Update: Here’s Where We’re Rafting All Summer Long! [MAP]

June 9th, 2014 Jamie Low

California Summer Rafting Update [MAP]

Here’s a more detailed description of each California river we’re rafting this summer:

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 started much earlier this year and our season won’t end until September 1st.

*BONUS: Goodwin Canyon will be running in October!

The closest whitewater rafting trip to the San Francisco Bay Area, the Goodwin Canyon section of the Stanislaus River will be running for two weeks in October for a special release to coincide with the Salmon run.  Exact dates have note yet been announced for the releases, but we expect to find out sometime in July. (It isn’t expected to run this summer, and space is limited on these exclusive dates, so if you’ve been meaning to check this river off of your bucket list, be sure to reserve your spot in advance!)

Middle Fork American River Rafting Video

June 5th, 2014 Malina

Waffling between rivers?  Trying to decide on a one day or overnight trip?  Take a tour with us, why don’t you, and journey into the Middle Fork American River canyon…….

Tuolumne and Cherry Creek 2014 Rafting Season Update

May 13th, 2014 Malina

In 2014 we have a pretty amazing season lined up on both sections of the T.   Which, for those of you in the know, should actually come as a surprise because we were hit with two disasters recently–the Rim Fire, which ended our 2013 Tuolumne and Cherry Creek seasons early, and the continuing California drought.

Thankfully the 2013 Rim Fire didn’t force the canyon’s complete closure, and we’re one of just a handful of outfitters with permits on this protected Wild and Scenic Canyon.  Although you can see fire damage on the drive into the canyon as well as from the riverbank, our rafting trips are really largely unaffected by the fire.  We’ve been quite impressed with how rapidly the canyon is regaining its beauty and vibrancy–and you will be too!

Flat Rock Rapid, Cherry Creek

Taken this past weekend on a guide training trip down Cherry Creek. Photo: Danny Walker

The other thing that you would be forgiven for thinking would be The Ruiner for this year’s Tuolumne and Cherry Creek seasons is the drought!  But no!  There’s enough water stored upstream that we have totally normal flows on the Main Tuolumne all season long.  And for Cherry Creek, the drought actually means the season opened in May this year.  Usually because of the spring snow melt we have to wait for Cherry Creek to be low enough to run, which typically takes until June or even July.  There’s nothing we’re celebrating about the drought, but it is giving us a much longer than usual season on Cherry Creek and hey, we’ll take it!

Also: if you haven’t seen them yet, be sure to check out our new videos from videographer and AO guide Nate M. and Char: Tuolumne River: Two Days & Cherry Creek Rafting with AO

Return to The Tuolumne River Canyon: Images of Transformation

May 13th, 2014 Jamie Low

Last summer the Tuolumne River canyon was the epicenter of California’s third largest wildfire in recorded history, abruptly cutting short our rafting season and leaving a moonscape of destruction behind. In December we were able to drive into the canyon to see for ourselves the extent of the damage, but until recently we had not been able to access the river canyon by raft.

Fast forward through months of worry to late March, when we were finally given the chance to bring the boats down into the canyon.  Together with the US Forest Service, various water management agencies and representatives from each of the outfitters, we ventured to see it for ourselves. We were hopeful, but concerned. Nobody really knew what to expect.

And we certainly didn’t expect this: while the fire damage was remarkable, so were the emerging signs of life.  The scorched earth and incinerated trees were in stark contrast to the brilliant colors of spring, providing us with what felt like the most beautiful day we’ve ever seen on the Tuolumne.

We’ve assembled this slideshow using photos from both of these trips to help showcase the Tuolumne canyon’s road to recovery:

  • March 2014: Deep green colors cover the lower canyonPhoto: Scott Armstrong
  • December 2013: A First LookHard hats were required during our first visit into the canyon. Photo: Scott Armstrong
  • Dec 2013: Driving through devastated areas of the Canyon Photo: Scott Armstrong
  • December 2013: Jawbone RidgePhoto: Scott Armstrong
  • March 2014: Jawbone Ridge comes back to lifePhoto: Jamie Low
  • Looking down into the Tuolumne River canyon Photo: Jamie Low
  • December 2013: Driving Toward Put-InPhoto: Scott Armstrong
  • December 2013: Looking Upstream at Ram's Head RapidPhoto: Scott Armstrong
  • A word of warning from the National Forest ServicePhoto: Jamie Low
  • March 2014: Rigging the boats at Meral's Pool put-inPhoto: Jamie Low
  • Signs of life Photo: Jamie Low
  • a stark contrast in affected sides of the canyonPhoto: Jamie Low
  • Cal Fire crew prepares for hazard removalPhoto: Jamie Low
  • Inspecting downed tree to be removed from Ram's Head rapidPhoto: Jamie Low
  • Scott Armstrong rows past the downed tree in Ram's HeadPhoto: Jamie Low
  • Paddling towards Clavey CanyonPhoto: Jamie Low
  • California poppy flowers were in full bloomPhoto: Jamie Low
  • All-Outdoors' owner Scott Armstrong taking photosPhoto: Jamie Low
  • an oar covered by debris from the firePhoto: Jamie Low
  • Below Clavey Falls: The river is colored dark brown from debrisPhoto: Jamie Low
  • The shade trees at Indian Campground were sparedPhoto: Jamie Low
  • Indian Campground from downstreamPhoto: Scott Armstrong
  • A Bobcat walks past scorched tree trunks Photo: Jamie Low
  • A downed tree comes to rest along the riverbankPhoto: Jamie Low
  • Floating past grapevinePhoto: Jamie Low

The Tuolumne River and Cherry Creek seasons have already begun, and despite California’s drought conditions, we will thankfully be exploring these river canyons all summer long.  If you haven’t seen “The Mighty T” in awhile, we strongly recommend the return trip.

If you’re wondering what all of this means for your prospects of taking a trip here, know that the view from the canyon rim will give you the impression that nothing survived this fire.  It’s an impressive sight, and it will take many years for the canyon to heal.  But once at river level, the scenery reveals a rich and robust ecosystem, almost making you forget about the fire ravaged landscape above.  It’s a stunning contrast that really needs to be seen in person to be appreciated.

Jamie Low started guiding for All-Outdoors in 1990, falling in love with whitewater boating, rivers and a local girl in the Sierra Foothills of California, where he now helps his clients “optimize” their search marketing communications strategies. Connect with Jamie on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn

New Video: Cherry Creek Rafting

May 13th, 2014 Malina

When it rains it pours: awesome videos from Nate and Char, that is!  Here they serve up a Class V slice of Cherry Pie.

Shot on Cherry Creek just before (like the day of. Literally.) the Rim Fire swept through the canyon.

And, did you know that the Cherry Creek season has already started?  We’re running trips now all the way until September 1st, 2014!

New Video: Tuolumne River Rafting!

May 13th, 2014 Malina

Our new video (courtesy of guide Nate and Char) is a magical look into the Tuolumne River.  Shot on a two-day trip in 2013, before the Rim Fire. Enjoy!

Why the Men’s Journal Is Wrong About Whitewater Rafting in California This Year

April 25th, 2014 Jamie Low

Ok, look… we’re a bit miffed. The Men’s Journal published an article claiming to highlight the “The Best Whitewater Rafting Destinations for 2014“, and with the season here underway we were excited to read the list.  But not only did they fail to mention any of our favorite rivers here in California, they even went out of their way to paint a picture of bone-dry rivers with nowhere to go boating in the entire state:

“California is normally the America’s capital of whitewater rafting, with massive Sierra snowfalls feeding dozens of cascading, granite-lined mountain rivers. Unfortunately the Golden State has been wrung out by one of the worst droughts on record. For rafters, kayakers, and stand-up paddlers that means it’s time to look elsewhere.”

They followed it up with a Tweet that described California as “wrung out” by the drought:

And the author even went so far as to characterize the prospects for the entire season as “poor”:

Wow. That would be really depressing for us California boaters… if it was actually true.

The Men’s Journal is Missing Out. (But You Shouldn’t.)

We can understand why a national publication might be left with the impression that California’s rafting season won’t have much to offer; it’s hard to read anything in the news these days without hearing about the drought. And reliable information is tricky to obtain during a year like this; we’ve had to attend a lot of meetings and make a bunch of phone calls just so we can get the most accurate up to date information we can about the upstream water supply, and new information is still coming in. (As are the storm systems; it’s dumping outside while I write this.)  And to be fair, their article was written a few weeks ago before we had a lot of new information from the utilities that manage upstream releases.  Without the benefit of that knowledge, it’s reasonable to assume that a drought year would leave our boats high and dry.

This is a big perception problem that we have been struggling to overcome in the press, and we’ve been fielding a lot of questions from people inquiring about the season.  If there’s a drought, there must not be enough water for rafting, right?

Wrong. Absolutely, categorically wrong. Shockingly, surprisingly, thankfully wrong. (Did I mention they were wrong?)

Thanks to the river gods (and an assortment of upstream utilities, government agencies and late season storms) we have plenty of water this year, all the way through to October.  Yup, October!

Granted, this is a very different year; all winter we were more than a bit worried ourselves.  As a rafting outfitter, our business relies on the Sierra snowpack in the spring, and hydropower water releases in the summer. Everyone in the state has been wringing their hands about the lack of snow we’ve received these past few years; it’s projected to have impacts that ripple out to every corner of the world.  The environmental and economic impacts of the drought are no joke, and we’re not taking the news lightly.

But here’s the thing: we’re not going to let bad press get us down. It’s not going to stop us from getting out on the river, and it only motivates us even more to tell everyone we can to go out and enjoy it with us. We’ve already been on the water running rapids these past few weeks, we’re rafting today, and tomorrow… and we’re going to keep rafting all summer and into the fall, just like we’ve done for the past 50 years.

Here’s a summary of what we know so far about the 2014 whitewater rafting season in California:

Spring Rafting: Tons of Options, and a Big Cherry On Top

This April, May & June we’re rafting on eight different California rivers.  We’re not looking at a high water year, but the snowpack is expected to provide daily rafting on most of our usual spring runs.

There are a few notable exceptions: the North Fork of the American may already be done (it always has a shorter season), and the North Fork of the Stanislaus isn’t expected to have a season. In the meantime, you’ll find our boats floating on rivers as far north as the Cal Salmon, the Merced & Tuolumne outside of Yosemite, and as far south as the Kaweah River (outside of Sequoia National Park), which is expected to run for a few weeks in early May.

And a very, very big bonus: we are getting a big fat Cherry on top of our California sundae: Cherry Creek (or the Upper Tuolumne) will actually have a spring season this year, which almost never happens. Most years the water is too high to run in the spring, but the Cherry Creek season will begin on May 3rd (in less than two short weeks!), and is projected to run all the way through until September 1st.  This might be the longest Creek season we’ve ever seen, and our guides and guests are really looking forward to making the most of it.

This Summer: The Americans, Tuolumne & Cherry Creek

Our most popular rivers also happen to have upstream reservoirs that release water to generate hydroelectric power throughout the summer months. We are still waiting to hear on the official word about releases on the Tuolumne in July and August, which we will post here soon, but preliminary estimates are looking really good so far.  This will enable us to offer a wide range of river trip options from family float trips to the most challenging rapids available on commercial rafting trips in the US.

The Fall: South Fork of the American, Middle Fork of the American and Goodwin Canyon

Believe it or not, we will still be rafting after school starts back up.  It’s usually a slower time of year for us, but we still run trips on multiple rivers when the California weather is usually nice and warm in September. Of course, we need water to do that, and we’ll have it: upstream reservoirs will release water throughout the summer at intervals that stretch out the season on the South Fork of the American, and possibly the Middle Fork of the American as well.

Can’t make it in September?  No problem. How about October?   If you’ve ever joined us on a trip during the Goodwin Canyon season, you’ll know what we’re talking about.

The Big Picture (We Made a Map!):

To help illustrate all the great options for whitewater rafting this year, we created this map to help our guests figure out when each of our rivers are running (click on the map to see a full size version):

Map: 2014 California River Rafting Season Update

Map: 2014 California River Rafting Season Update

Note: For the full breakdown of each river and its forecasted season, be sure to check our recent post 2014 California River Rafting Season Update [MAP]: Eight Rivers We’re Rafting This Year

It’s Not Just Us That’s Excited: Just Ask the San Francisco Chronicle. (And the Sacramento Bee. And the San Jose Mercury News):

A few other articles have come out in recent weeks that did a great job of outlining the options available for boating this year; grab a cup of coffee and peruse these for more details:

Outdoor writer Tom Stienstra of the San Francisco Chronicle addresses the perception problem (and the awesome, surprising reality) of the impact of the drought on California’s rafting season directly here:

On Northern California rivers, good forecast for summer rafting
Tom Stienstra April 19, 2014

Writer Paul McHugh previously wrote two great pieces on the rafting season in the San Jose Mercury and the Sacramento Bee:

California whitewater rafting: Season’s on for 2014 (drought or not)
Paul McHugh 4/15/2014

And while we take issue with the clever yet slightly misleading wordplay in the headline, the article does a great job of reviewing the who, what, where how and why of the drought’s impact on the rafting season here:

Want to raft? Better do so rapidly
Paul McHugh April 10, 2014

And as far as the Men’s Journal article is concerned?

Honestly, we’re actually not that upset.  We get it; if we didn’t live here, we might think the same thing after reading the news all winter long while enjoying all those powder days in say… Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Or Oregon. Or anywhere else in the country (it was a very big winter for just about everyone else.)

So, while we don’t really expect it, we would love to see them revisit this topic in an additional article in the future, to help correct the record.  We all make mistakes, and we definitely agreed with all of the rivers they did include in their article; but we sure wouldn’t mind a bit of equal air time to correct the fact that they erroneously dumped all over California. (And Frederick, if you’re reading this, check your Twitter account for a PM. How about you come out and visit us to see it for yourself?)

Jamie Low started guiding for All-Outdoors in 1990, falling in love with whitewater boating, rivers and a local girl in the Sierra Foothills of California, where he now helps his clients “optimize” their search marketing communications strategies. Connect with Jamie on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn