Whitewater Rafting on the Tuolumne River
Located just outside Yosemite's northwest entrance, the Tuolumne River offers several excellent single and multi-day whitewater rafting adventures suitable for beginner to advanced paddlers. Long noted for its scenic beauty and bouncing whitewater, the Tuolumne was named a National Wild & Scenic river by Congress in 1984. Many travelers combine their visit to Yosemite National National park with a rafting trip on the Tuolumne. Visitors are encouraged to book a trip with a professional rafting outfitter.
Suitable for families and first-time rafters, the Main Tuolumne section from Lumsden Bridge to Wards Ferry is characterized by a series of exciting waves and rapids spaced at close intervals along with several calm stretches to take in the scenery. This 18-mile run can be done in one (long) day or as a multi-day overnight adventure. The Tuolumne offers many sandy beaches, perfect for river camping.
Further upstream, the Class V Upper Tuolumne section begins on Cherry Creek, 1/2 mile upstream from its confluence with the Main Tuolumne and continues unbridled to Meral Pool. This intense and demanding stretch of river is comprised of long, nearly continuous whitewater and short pools. Her rapids are legendary. Among “The Creek’s” unparalleled array of chutes, holes, ledges and gigantic boulders lie Jawbone, Mushroom, Miracle Mile, Lewis’ Leap and Flat Rock Falls. You’ll feel the adrenaline. With a phenomenally steep gradient, this is one of the most thrilling (and fun) rafting sections in the U.S. and the standard by which Class V runs are measured. A training seminar and Class V paddler’s test are required for Cherry Creek / Upper Tuolumne participants.
The Cherry Crrek/Upper Tuolumne can be combined with the Main Tuolumne for a 2 or 3-day, 27 mile adventure into the California outback. Limited use permits on both sections bring travelers into remote areas of the back country that only a few get to experience.
Private boaters with their own kayaks and rafts can obtain permits to navigate river through the Groveland Ranger District of the Stanislaus National Forest. Many visitors choose to go with an experienced professional outfitter who provides guides, meals, and all necessary equipment for the rafting expedition. Sierra Mac River Trips runs guided trips on both the upper and lower sections of the Tuolumne.
Visitors to the Tuolumne River region can find lodging near the towns of Groveland and Buck Meadows.
The Main Tuolumne is accessed from California State Hwy 120 via Lumsden Rd, the traditional meeting spot for these trips is near the Casa Loma Store, 14 mile east of the town of Groveland, CA. Guided commercial trips include shuttles to put-in and from take-out. Shuttles for private boaters can be arranged through Tuolumne River Shuttles (www.tuolumnerivershuttles.com).
Best Seasons for Experiencing
Rafting season on the Main Tuolumne usually begins with the spring runoff in April when the river is running high and continues as flows drop into more moderate summer levels. Flows on the Tuolumne depend on the annual winter snowpack in the Sierra and are also controlled by several upstream dams that allow the river to flow into mid-September even in dry years.
Typical Class of Water