Angels Camp, Calif. — It’s been five years since river guides have seen a solid snowpack in California and there has been any kind of buzz about whitewater rafting. But based on the most recent snow survey, and just one year after the driest winter ever recorded in California history, O.A.R.S. is excited to release the best California whitewater forecast in five years.
“There’s no doubt that this will be the best season we’ve seen since 2010 and 2011,” O.A.R.S.’ California Manager and longtime river guide, Chris Moore, said. “We’re especially excited about the opportunity to run the North Fork of the Stanislaus and the North Fork of the American rivers this year, as well as high-water on the Tuolumne. It’s going to be the experience of a lifetime.”
The April 1 surveys reported near normal snowpack totals in the Northern and Central Sierra, a remarkable improvement from the last four years. Statewide, the Department of Water Resources reported that water content of the mountain snowpack is at 87 percent of the historical average—and anything above 85 percent snowpack in the Sierra amounts to outstanding whitewater rafting. To put that in perspective, last year’s statewide snowpack water content was only 5 percent of the historical April 1 average.
WHAT TO EXPECT THIS YEAR ON CALIFORNIA’S SIGNATURE WHITEWATER RIVERS:
- In early April, whitewater enthusiasts will be watching the flow gauges, hoping for a rare opportunity to raft the coveted North Fork of the Stanislaus River into Calaveras Big Trees State Park. This Class IV+ river is one of the most exciting rafting trips in the state, but it’s only available while the low-elevation snow is melting in early spring. Press ready photos here.
- The emerald-green Class IV North Fork of the American River near Auburn—one of the classic free-flowing Sierra runs—is expected to have good flows through April and possibly into May. Press ready photos here.
- Another free-flowing spring run, the Merced River outside of Yosemite offers Class III-IV roller coaster thrills and is expected to run through mid-June this year. At high water, the Merced serves up 10-foot waves, rivaling the Grand Canyon, and boatloads of fun.
- Expect elevated flows on the Tuolumne River near Yosemite at least through the end of May with reliable water all summer long on this iconic Class IV river. With 18 miles of nearly continuous whitewater running through a pristine wilderness canyon and 1-, 2-, and 3-day options available, “The T” is a must-do California rafting trip. Press ready photos here.
- On the South Fork of the American near Sacramento, California’s most popular whitewater rafting river, upstream reservoirs are at capacity and forecasters anticipate good flows at least 6 days per week through Labor Day with up to 4 days per week in September. A great river for families with kids as young as 7-years-old, but expect higher flows and increased minimum age requirements on the South Fork through Memorial Day, as this is a completely different river at higher flows and a guaranteed thrill ride. Press ready photos here.
- The dam-released Class IV Middle Fork of the American River near Auburn should be in play 6 or 7 days per week from Memorial Day through Labor Day with a more limited schedule through the end of September. The Middle Fork’s notorious Tunnel Chute Rapid, is a must-do this year.
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