What High Water Rafting Means for YOU!

Posted June 17, 2011 by Malina

A couple days ago I wrote about some of the ways we  as a commercial outfitter change things up during high water season. But let’s be frank–y’all are probably more interested in how YOUR experience will be!

First of all: FUN!  Super fun!  High water trips deliver more of everything you love about rafting–the thrills, the rush, the challenge, the suntan.  Ok, not the suntan because you’ll probably be wearing cold water rafting gear from head to toe so the only thing likely to need SPF is the tip of your nose….

High water rafting is fun because the rapids are bigger, the water is faster, and the thrill can’t be beat.  High water also reinvents rivers you may think you know.  For example, the class III South Fork of the American becomes class IV with rapids like Trouble Maker, Satan’s Cesspool, and Haystack Canyon booming like you’ve never seen them before.  Class IV rivers become class IV+ to V, and class V rivers like Cherry Creek become class VI, or outright unrunnable. 

The character of each river transforms as the water rises as well.  For instance  huge waves replace what would be tricky rock obstacles at lower flows.  This amps ups the “roller-coaster” feeling everyone loves so much about rafting and typically creates unrestrained fits of giggling in full grown men and women! 🙂 Another thing that happens is constant motion–instead of calm sections that require forward paddling, you basically get to sit back and glide along as the current pushes downstream–until the next big rapid, that is, when it’s time to dig in once again.

For you, this means seeing rivers you’ve already experienced in a whole new way–basically making it a brand new trip.  It means being ready for a challenge.  Paddling hard, acting as a team, and having quick response time.  It also means being ready for cold and powerful water should you have an out-of-boat-experience.  So, being honest about your fitness level and the amount of excitement you really want to experience is an important part of getting ready for a high water rafting trip. 

The Merced River, with its long, roller-coaster like wave trains, is a great place to get your feet wet before you check out the technical and very demanding rapids of the Kaweah or the North Fork of the Stanislaus at higher flows.

(Top: see the tiny raft about to enter the monster wave train on the North Fork of the American river? Bottom: Happy rafters and a bright purple wetsuit!)


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