June 2011: Rafting Conditions Update!

Posted June 3, 2011 by Gregg Armstrong, Co-Founder

The final week of May was a near perfect representation of California weather this spring… cool, wet, and changing every other day or two. It has been a very unusual April and May. My son even chased a tornado in Chico several days ago! (glad he did not catch it). Cold storms are occurring one right after another. More snow is accumulating in the Sierra on top of an already huge pack. Cloud cover is preventing serious snow melt and keeping the sun’s heat off the surface of the snow. Freezing temperatures night after night are stopping any melt able to get started during the day. All these factors greatly impact the rivers you and I raft on in California.

Normally, the peak snow melt in California starts during the first 15 days of May and ends during the final 15 days of June which means we would already be halfway through our high-water season in a normal water year. This year, the forecast is quite different with the peak melt starting in mid-June and ending in late-July. Summary: if it gets warm quick and stays warm, it’s going to mean high-flows well past spring and into summer!

I’d like to share something with you that I share with my staff each week. This is a flow prediction chart which tracks the water content (water in snow) for all of our rivers. From this chart, we can determine how rivers will flow and when, and how long their seasons will be.

***New for 2011: I will share this chart on our blog as new data comes in so you can stay informed when you make your rafting plans this season.

As you look at the flow predictions chart below, the yellow highlighted sections indicate changes that took place this week due to cold weather and more snow packing up in the Sierra:








Items to note:

-Central California (location for most of our rivers) is kicking butt when it comes to water content at this time: 309%!
-Southern California (Kaweah River) is going strong with 187% water content.
-The South Fork American will have higher flows than expected in early July.
-The Merced will now run through mid-August.
-The Tuolumne will have higher “spring flows” through most of July.
-The Kaweah looks like it will have good flows (above 1000 CFS) through July.
-The North Fork Stanislaus will most likely run through July and maybe through mid-August.
-The North Fork American will be runnable in July.

All in all, if you’re looking for a high-water trip, this is definitely the year to do it. You can expect longer seasons for most of our rivers and healthy flows in summer. Could you ask for more?

Hope to see you on the water!

Gregg Armstrong
Owner, All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting




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