La Casa Loma River Store, 8 miles east of Groveland on Hwy 120 (At the intersection of Hwy 120 & Ferretti Road)
1, 2 or 3 Days from $299 | Wine trips from $649View Dates & Prices
What’s your pleasure? The Tuolumne River, located just outside Yosemite National Park, is a standard-setter among all the California rafting experiences OARS offers. Pronounced “too-all-uh-me,” and affectionately referred to as “the T,” we have chosen it as one of our “Seven Whitewater Wonders” of the World. Options abound here. There’s a thrill-stacked one day Tuolumne River rafting trip, an adventurous 48-hour getaway with cool hikes up side canyons carved by cascading waterfalls, as well as a carefree three-day Tuolumne rafting vacation, with lots of time to explore and relax while reconnecting with nature. All three California rafting options take you to headwaters of the Tuolumne River which originate in the internationally renowned wilds of Yosemite National Park. A true wilderness trip on a “Wild and Scenic” river, the Tuolumne River spills 18 miles through a secluded river canyon roaring with whitewater. A Tuolumne rafting trip works perfectly into a California vacation to San Francisco, Napa Valley and the California coast.
La Casa Loma River Store, 8 miles east of Groveland on Hwy 120 (At the intersection of Hwy 120 & Ferretti Road)
Information for this Mile by Mile guide was gathered from the books “California Whitewater” and “A Guide to the Best Whitewater in the State of California,” as well as from a variety of sources on the Internet.
MERAL’S POOL Put-in (start) of OARS Tuolumne River Whitewater Rafting trips. This section of the Tuolumne River is named for Jerry Meral who was one of the first people to kayak the Tuolumne and is a crusader for river preservation.
ROCK GARDEN (IV) At lower water flows, this boulder-strewn section is extremely technical. Rafts typically have to cross from river right to river left. At higher flows there is a large reversal near the bottom of the rapid. There is a beautiful sandy beach and campsite on river right. OARS sometimes uses this camp for multi-day trips on the Tuolumne River.
NEMISIS (IV). Found just after a sharp left-hand bend, this is another very technical rapid at low-water flows. It is a fun, wild ride at higher flows. The Nemesis is a big boulder cluster about half way down.
SUNDERLAND’S CHUTE (IV+). This rapid is named for Dick Sunderland, one of the Tuolumne River’s early kayak explorers. The river turns right and then drops over a rough gravel bar/chute on the left. The river’s gradient here is 80 feet per mile.
RAM’S HEAD (IV; V above 3500 cfs) The Tuolumne bends left and drops. At medium and high flows the boulder creates a powerful spouting hole. There is a good recovery pool below.
INDIA & LOWER INDIA (IV) There are two short chutes separated by a small pool. According to private boater and geologist Terry Wright, PhD., this rapid is named after India Fleming, who was 14 years old when she first ran the Tuolumne during one of the early exploratory kayak runs. Apparently, she was the first female to run this river.
Tin Can Cabin. Found on river left, this camp is occasionally used by Tuolumne River fishermen. The Tuolumne River is stocked by the California Department of Fish and Game with salmon, rainbow trout and brown trout. There are several mines up the gully on the left where it is possible to find mining artifacts. It is proper etiquette to leave what you find.
STERNS (IV) When the water flow is low, rafts must run a narrow chute between the left wall and a van-sized rock. Get turned sideways heading into this rapid and you will be sure to experience some real whitewater excitement!
EVANGELIST (IV) The river bends right into a series of short drops with a big rock/hole right of center. This infamous Tuolumne River rapid is so named because it is “holey.”
The confluence of the Tuolumne and Clavey Rivers. The Clavey River enters from river right. Small campsites can be found on either side of Clavey Falls, the biggest rapid on your Tuolumne River whitewater rafting adventure. It is often fun to camp here and anticipate throughout the night your upcoming ride through Clavey Falls Rapid.
There are many good hiking and fishing opportunities up the Clavey River; however, both activities are dangerous at high water. Always check in with your guide(s) before venturing away from camp. Be on the lookout for poison oak.
CLAVEY FALLS (IV+) This rapid is one of the reasons the Tuolumne River is considered the jewel of California whitewater rafting. Your thrilling California whitewater experience in this rapid begins with two big drops. The first drop is considered “The Falls,” and it can push boats into a frothy current, sending rafts into the left wall. There is a very large hole across the left half of the river just prior to the second drop. It is hard to miss the hole when the river flow is above 2000 cfs. Navigating your way through this rapid earns bragging rights in any setting.
Access to the Hamby Trail is found on river left. This two-mile trail leading to Ferretti Road has approximately 40 switchbacks and an 1850-ft elevation gain (and a startling quantity of ticks).
Powerhouse Campsite. This wide, sandy campsite is found on the right side of the Tuolumne River. Destroyed by flood in 1937, this powerhouse originally provided electricity for miners early in the century. A trail on the left bank leads out of the canyon.
Grapevine Creek enters the Tuolumne river on the right. Grapevine Campsite can be found downstream on the left.
Your Tuolumne River whitewater rafting experience is not always about the whitewater. History avails itself to those seeking hidden treasures: an abandoned hard rock mineshaft is on the left. Be on the lookout for artifacts, and practice proper Leave No Trace etiquette: leave historical artifacts where you find them.
Indian Creek enters from the left. There is a campsite on river right, and an old mining road climbs out of the Tuolumne Canyon just downstream.
GRAY’S GRINDSTONE (IV) Gray’s Grindstone, one of the longest rapids on your Tuolumne River whitewater rafting trip, is over one-half mile long.
THREAD THE NEEDLE (IV) Rocks block most of the river. There is a “Chicken Chute” on river left, but only the truly adventurous have been known to “thread the needle” between the rocks in the center. There are two campsites on river left near this rapid.
The quartz mine shafts found on both banks were abandoned around 1909. Be on the lookout for remnants of a steam engine on river right.
CABIN (IV) There is a big hole just below the entrance to this rapid. The river then bends right and drops down a curving chute. On the left is Big Humbug Creek.
Big Creek enters from the left, where there is a large, unshaded campsite. Follow the creek a short way to a waterfall. There are Indian mortar holes near the creek’s mouth.
HELL’S KITCHEN (IV) This rapid starts with Class III drops over a jumble of boulders, and it then turns into a slalom between large rocks.
There is an old, tattered suspension bridge which marks the site of abandoned quartz mines. There are still remnants of old mining equipment found on river left. The Mohican trail leads out of the canyon from river left.
The North Fork of the Tuolumne enters from river right, and there are campsites here. Found upstream on the tributary is the site of an old bridge, which once linked Tuolumne City with the Mohican Trail.
High-water mark of New Don Pedro Reservoir. There are more whitewater rapids from this point when the reservoir is low. When the reservoir is full the river is flat and still.
Turnback Creek enters on the right. History states that an abundance of gold was located here in 1856.
PINBALL (IV+) Pinball Rapid is exposed only when Don Pedro Reservoir is low.
Ward’s Ferry Bridge. Cold drinks and a return shuttle to your vehicle await at the take-out of your OARS Tuolumne River rafting trip.
1 Day: $299
2 Days: $549
3 Days: $825
Deposit: $250 (Full payment required for 1-day trips)
Wetsuits are required and included free of charge on all early-season (pre-June 1st) and high water trips.
2020 Specialty Departures:
2021 Specialty Departures:
O.A.R.S. West, Inc. operates on the Tuolumne River as a permitted outfitter of the Stanislaus National Forest
“I was SO happy with your safety protocol and standards. The guide communication, safety catamaran, hand signals and rapid scouting made me feel at ease and able to enjoy the rapids knowing if trouble happened, we were covered.
James our lead guide was super thorough, fun, easy going, great naturalist/conservation-oriented and always checking in with us to make sure we were having a good time.
Such an outstanding, friendly group of guides. They learned all of our names, regularly checked in to make sure we were enjoying ourselves and were super organized. Couldn’t have asked for a better team of guides to lead our trip. By far the most efficient, friendly, knowledgeable, customer service oriented outfit I’ve ever rafted or vacationed with. The food and service were amazing, I felt well prepared to enjoy the experience and I can’t wait to book my next trip. I’ve been highly recommending to as many people who will listen about the great experience I had with OARS”
Olivia Ramos ~ Vancouver, WA
“The guides that were with our trip were amazing. They couldn’t have been better. My group is a bunch of mid-twenty year old men and they accommodated our unique style of fun to perfection. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. For a first time rafter their knowledge and flexibility allowing my group to do things out of the norm made the trip. We were able to push the envelope so to speak without going too far. My friends and I will definitely be back and will go in with the best expectations. Our recommendations have already landed three other groups to either take a trip or reserve a trip. Thank You OARS”
Joshua Altopp ~ Redlands, CA
“The Tuolumne is a wonderful river. It offers a great wilderness experience since there is limited access except by raft or kayak., and the rapids are very challenging and fun. The best thing about OARS are your guides – I have a lot of confidence in their experience and ability and that makes me feel secure about taking a trip on a river like the Tuolumne.”
Diane McCarthy ~ El Dorado Hills, CA
“Our raft guide (Billy) was the best part of the trip. He was very engaged with our group and seemed to have as much fun as the rest of us. I enjoyed all the information about the history of the river, as well as the wildlife and natural surroundings. Overall, the level of service was very high. It felt luxurious to have all meals taken care of! The food was excellent.”
Jessee Mayfield ~ Raleigh, NC
“All of the Guides were exceptional. They were a lot of fun and VERY hard working. I enjoyed everything on the trip. It was a wonderful experience and don’t think that anybody could do it better than OARS. I also appreciated how the guides all seemed to be very concerned with all the rafters’ safety.”
Stacey Norstrud ~ League City, TX
“The lead guide did a great job. I felt he was looking out for both my health and safety therefore I could relax and totally enjoy the trip. The whitewater was great and I was made to feel part of the group – even though I traveled as a single female. Just a great trip.”
Becky White ~ Winter Haven, FL
“The guides were well informed on how to relate to customers at all levels of experience. They informed us well with everything from safety precautions to having a good time. I felt safe and at ease, knowing that I was definitely in good hands. The cook and wine crew were also adventurous, which made a unique bond between the rafting and food experience. I felt free to be myself, and improve at my own pace over the course of the tour. I had a great time and am very thankful for my OARS experience.”
Holly Acosta ~ Bear Valley, CA
“Both the OARS staff and the other “guests” were great. We liked that there were enough rules to keep people safe, but plenty of freedom to really relax and have a great time. The pace of the trip was good…plenty to do, but lots of time to relax.”
Beth Pollock ~ Chicago, IL
“My wife and I just returned from a 3-day trip on the Tuolumne and wanted to tell you what a fantastic time we had. Everything really was outstanding, from the skill of the guides to the quality of the food. Our fearless leader was a standout in every way. He was funny, but clearly in control. He knew how to calm the concerns of nervous clients, while making sure that all of us got to experience all the thrills the river has to offer. He was well informed on everything riparian, from local river issues to legends and even some salty river guide jokes. The other guides were also excellent, perpetually in good humor, and took care of our every need. We particularly enjoyed the hikes to local swimming holes. Thanks very much.”
Larry Abramson ~ Washington, DC
Hands down one of the best vacation experiences I have ever had, if not the single best. My wife and I, along with 2 other couples with whom we are great friends, decided to book a 3 day trip with OARS for their Tuolumne rafting trip over the weekend of Aug 26-28, 2016. The 6 of us were in one paddle boat, and there was a family of 5 in another paddle boat, and then there were 3 equipment boats, one of which had 2 additional guests on it.The guides who accompanied us were: Mike (trip lead and our paddle boat guide), Jeff (other paddle boat guide), Jimbo (equipment guide and had the other 2 guests on it), Mark, and last but not least, Moose. These guys were the bomb.
I cannot recall any experience thus far which has hit every high mark possible in every category. The rafting was phenomenal – lots of challenging but doable rapids, lots of time for side trips and taking it easy as necessary, lots of exceptional food and drink.
From the moment we booked the trip, working with Amanda, we never had any questions or concerns that weren’t quickly and thoroughly addressed.
All six of us felt the same way – a perfect vacation! I especially want to call out the guys on the trip. More than the rafting, the scenery or anything else about the trip, their attitudes and experience were what made this trip. In every regard they stepped up and went beyond. They were engaging, and in the normal course of getting to know us, our likes/dislikes, they tailored the excursion, the meals and everything else. I can’t say enough good things. Their passion for rafting and providing a first class experience were evident and very, very much appreciated.
burn478 via TripAdvisor ~ Palatine, IL