For hard-working paddlers with a taste for thrills, chills, and spills, rafting the North Fork Stanislaus River in Northern California is a slice of wild whitewater heaven.
In the spring, when snowpack in the Sierra is abundant and the conditions are just right, the North Fork of the Stanislaus River (also known as the “Stan”) boasts some of the best and most technical Class IV whitewater rafting in California. A veritable insta-epic, this North Fork Stanislaus River rafting trip starts at 4,000 feet and hurdles six miles, at a 70 feet per-mile gradient, down to the feet of some of the most massive trees you’ll ever see—the Giant Sequoia groves of Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Northern California. Granite gorges, meadows of wild azaleas, and old Miwok Indian sites slip by one after another, amidst big waves, churning holes, and plenty of technically-demanding paddling.
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What to Expect
Itinerary & Map
Itinerary at a Glance
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every North Fork Stanislaus River rafting trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
Meeting Time & Place
Arnold, CA – Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Approximately 4 PM, depending on water levels
Dates & Prices
April – June: Daily
Full payment is required at the time of booking.
• $8 per person federal, state, and local access fees
• Wetsuits included/required on early season and cold weather days
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to or from the meeting place
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- River access fees
- Calaveras Big Trees State Park $10/vehicle entrance fee
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
- Wetsuit booties or shoes of any kind
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) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F|
Whitewater & Water Levels
The water releases on the North Fork of the Stanislaus are controlled by power companies that release water in conjunction with the demand for power needed in the surrounding area. This causes fluctuations in river levels with little advance notice. The Stan’s watershed is also relatively small; therefore, depending on the snow-pack—as well as the rate of snow melt—we are unable to guarantee raftable flows. Please call us the day prior to your trip to check on water levels. The Stan’s spring rafting season is usually over in June.
Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.
Reservations and Deposits
Full payment is required at the time of booking. Payments may be made by check, money order, or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Canceling your trip 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.
Cancellations and Refunds
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.
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 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. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation Fee|
|30 or more days before your trip||$15/person|
|29 – 7 days before your trip||Payment can be transferred to another trip for a fee of $30/person within the same year or $30/person to the following year. No refund.|
|6 days or less before your trip||50% of the trip cost can be credited to another trip (within the same year)|
|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.
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 before departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.
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 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable 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 can’t 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 $30/person fee to transfer to another trip, within the same year only. Transfer requests made 6 days or less prior to departure, 50% of your trip cost can be credited to another trip, within the same year only. Transfer requests made the day of departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.
O.A.R.S. West, Inc. operates on the North Fork of the Stanislaus River as a permitted outfitter under the Stanislaus National Forest.
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 Stanislaus River from Beginner’s Luck to Big Trees Falls, we acknowledge the territories of the Washoe and Central Sierra Me-wuk.
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Adventure Level: Moderately Challenging
Minimum Age: 14 (16 during high water)
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