Merced River Rafting Near Yosemite National Park

Location California Adventure Level Moderately Challenging Minimum age 12 - 14 (9 at low water) River Rating Class IV (Class III late season) From $169
Book Now Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

A Merced River rafting trip is one of the best one-day adventures near Yosemite National Park. Catch it while you can in the spring and early summer months!

Spring fever comes early on the Merced River. In April and May, the river flows fast and cold as the snow melts in Yosemite National Park all while passing poppy-covered hillsides and burly pine forests. The Class III-IV whitewater you’ll tackle on a Merced River rafting trip is the stuff of avid paddlers’ winter daydreams. For the rest of the California whitewater rafting season, the Merced churns with bold wave trains and exhilarating rapids which are ideal for rafters of all levels. Consider combining a Merced River rafting trip with a day or two spent exploring adjacent Yosemite National Park for the perfect California adventure vacation.

Trip Highlights
  • Merced River rafting on a Wild & Scenic River through pine forests and California poppy fields
  • Exciting Class III-IV whitewater rafting and rollercoaster wave trains
  • Delicious “build-your-own-masterpiece” deli-style lunch
  • Cranberry, Ned’s Gulch, Split Rock & Corner Pocket Rapids provide white-knuckling whitewater action
  • Combine this California rafting adventure with a visit to Yosemite National Park
The nose of a yellow raft up in the air as a group of paddlers take on a rapid on the Merced River in California

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What to Expect

Itinerary & Map

Itinerary at a Glance

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every Merced River rafting trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, camp locations, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:

  • The morning of your trip, you’ll meet up with your trip leader and fellow travelers for a short shuttle ride to the river. At the put-in, your guides will deliver an orientation and safety talk and fit you with your helmet and PFD (wetsuits and splash tops are also included on all early-season and cold-weather trips). Then, we hit the water!
  • Exciting and drenching, Cranberry Rapid is the first Class IV rapid we encounter and a great way to test our paddle skills. The whitewater action comes at us quickly and rapids like Percolator, Hawaii 5-0, and Balls to the Wall provide big excitement and big laughs as we continue down the Wild and Scenic Merced River.
  • Come lunchtime, we’ll pull over to a beach and your guides will lay out our famous “build-your-own-masterpiece” deli-style lunch. This is a chance to kick back and revel in a day well-spent outdoors. Beyond the alternating clear pools and frothy whitewater, the surrounding scenery is magnificent. Just outside of Yosemite, this picturesque canyon is adorned with pine forests, colorful wildflowers, rocky ledges, and sandy beaches.
  • After lunch, it’s back to work and all eyes are on us at Ned’s Gulch where onlookers can view boaters run this wild staircase rapid. On warm days, the slower stretches of cool water that follow are great for an invigorating swim before the finale of the trip—two back-to-back Class IV whoppers—Split Rock and Corner Pocket Rapids
  • We’ll have a chance to catch our breath before we reach Railroad Flat, where our river trip draws to a close. At the take-out, an OARS shuttle will be waiting to take you back to your vehicle.

Meeting Time & Place


9.4 miles northeast of Mariposa on Highway 140
Look for our signs 1.3 miles north of Midpines Post Office on your left. If you miss the turnout, you can turn around at the entrance to the Yosemite Bug Hostel (.4 miles down the road).

GPS Coordinates: 37.576327,-119.947695

Meeting time

9:00 AM


Approximately 5 PM, depending on water levels

Trip Map

Dates & Prices

April – July: Daily

2024 Prices
Standard Value$179
Youth Value$169
Standard Rate*$199
Youth Rate*$189

*Applicable Saturdays May 25 – June 29 and Sunday May 26

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Ways to Save

To book with one of our special offers, call 1-800-346-6277 or contact us today.

Teachers Raft for Free!

Teachers raft for free on 1/2- and 1-day trips all season long with one or more full-paying guests.

The Need-to-Know Info

Trip Details

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled, professional guide service
  • Delicious, riverside picnic lunch
  • High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddle, helmet, personal flotation device, and wetsuits and splash tops (included on early and late season trips, cold weather trips, and by advance request)
  • Transfers from the OARS meeting place to the river and back

Not Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Transportation to the meeting place and back
  • Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
  • River access fees
  • Wetsuit booties or shoes of any kind
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Gratuities

The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants, and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip. 

Learn more about the OARS Fleet and the boats that may be a part of your experience: paddle raft; paddle raft with oar assist.

At lunch, which is provided, we’ll pull over to shore for a delicious riverside picnic. Your guides will lay out an abundant spread of cold cuts, cheeses, veggies, and breads, or perhaps a fresh Caesar salad wrap or tasty taco salad for roll-your-own burritos. Lunch is always accompanied by fruit, cookies, cold water, and lemonade. 

Please let us know if you have any dietary needs that we’ll need to consider in planning your trip. More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.

Average Air & Water Temperatures

Air (Day) °FWater °FNotes:
April63-6740-50Extremely variable weather; lots of wildflowers
May71-7542-46Possibility for late spring storms, high-water possible
June80-8446-52Warm days; chance of showers; potential high-water
July88-9254-60Hot, sunny days; low-water, ideal for swimming


During the spring, the Merced features mile after mile of huge wave trains and long staircase drops, delivering nearly non-stop whitewater thrills. However, it is still suitable for aggressive beginners; its intensity is kept somewhat in check by a general lack of obstacles amidst the rapids and by the calm, glassy pools that provide a reprieve between bursts of whitewater. The Merced’s free-flowing waters—dependent solely on snowmelt, without dams or reservoirs in the way—keep its season short and sweet! Rafting season on the Merced River is generally limited from late April to mid-June but can extend into July depending on the preceding winter’s snowfall.

Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.

  • Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 260 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria.

  • Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us.
  • Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms online and submit them no later than 30 days prior to your trip, or immediately if booking within 30 days.

Reservations and Payments

Full payment is required at the time of booking.

Payments can be made by check, money order, eCheck, wire transfer, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency. Your payment is fully refundable for 48 hours, less a 3% processing fee, after making a reservation when you reserve a trip 7 days or more prior to departure.

Cancellations and Refunds

Canceling your trip after your deposit is processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you. If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below.

We regret that we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

Date of CancellationCancellation Fee
30 or more days before your trip$30/person
29 – 7 days before your trip$50/person. The remainder of your trip payment can be transferred to another trip within the same year (or to a credit account for the following year). No refund.
6 days or less before your trip50% of the trip cost can be credited to another trip (within the same year). No refund.
Late arrivals or “no-shows”No refund or credit

Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.

Canceled Trips

OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 7 days prior to departure. Do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you have verified with OARS that your trip is confirmed.

If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a $30/person service fee and any non-refundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers; however, we cannot guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.


If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same year, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $15/person fee up until 30 days prior to departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. If we are 29-7 days prior to your trip departure, there is a $50/person fee to transfer to another trip, within the same year or to a credit account for the following year. If we are 6 days or less prior to departure, 50% of your trip cost can be credited to another trip within the same year only.

O.A.R.S. West, Inc. operates on the Merced River under authorization from the Bureau of Land Management

Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement

We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the Merced River from Cedar Lodge to Railroad Flat, we acknowledge the territories of the Southern Sierra Me-wuk.

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