North Fork Stanislaus River Rafting

Location California Adventure Level Challenging Minimum age 14 (16 during high water) River Rating Class IV+ From $169
Book Now Call toll-free 1 (800) 346-6277

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.

Trip Highlights
  • Rafting on the North Fork Stanislaus River is a top California whitewater adventure
  • In the spring, this High Sierra river offers six miles of virtually non-stop Class IV+ rafting through a scenic canyon
  • With an average gradient of 70 feet per mile, the rapids come quickly on this river!
  • Aggressive paddling required through rapids like Dig Dog, Whiteout, Rattlesnake & Big Trees Falls
  • Your trip concludes in Calaveras Big Trees State Park – home to two groves of giant sequoias
A paddle boat with four guets and a guide paddling through a large stretch of whitewater on the North Fork Stanislaus River.

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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:

  • The morning of your trip, you’ll meet up with your trip leader and fellow travelers in Calaveras Big Trees State Park for a short 20-minute ride to our put-in at Sourgrass. Once at the river, 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’re off!
  • Our first task will be to portage Beginner’s Luck, a 15-foot staircase drop with a hole at the bottom. Next, we’ll paddle hard through Body Slam and Bear Claw rapids. The whitewater keeps coming at us fast–listening to your guides and agile maneuvering are necessary in technical rapids like The Slot and The Plunge.
  • Come lunchtime, either just above or just below Convulsion Rapid, we will pull over to a beach and the guides will lay out a “build-your-own-masterpiece” deli-style lunch. After resting our arms for a bit, it’s back to work.
  • Dig Dog, Whiteout and Rattlesnake are among the continuous steep drops and boulder slaloms we negotiate next. After a couple of miles of aggressive paddling through more tumultuous boulder-strewn whitewater, we face Big Trees Falls—the river’s most infamous rapid. After dropping down this epic 12-foot slanting chute, we’ll splash through a number of fun Class II riffles as our trip draws to an end. 
  • At the take-out in Big Trees State Park, an OARS van will be waiting to give us a 10-minute ride back to our vehicles.

Meeting Time & Place


Arnold, CA – Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Meeting time

9 AM


Approximately 4 PM, depending on water levels

Trip Map

Dates & Prices

April – June: Daily

2024 Prices
Standard Value$179
Youth Value$169

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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 picnic lunch and snacks
  • High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddles, helmets and personal flotation devices (PFDs), and wetsuits and splash jackets (required)
  • Transfers from the meeting place to the river and back

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
  • 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) °FAir (Night) °FWater °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.

  • 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 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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