|MEETING PLACE:||OARS American River Outpost, 7330 River Park Drive, Lotus, CA 95651|
|GPS COORDINATES:||38.806327, -120.903538 (Intermittent GPS/cellular service in area)|
|MEETING TIME:||8:00 AM|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 7 PM at the OARS Warehouse in Angels Camp, CA|
|RIVER RATING:||Class III-IV|
|RIVERS:||South Fork American, Tuolumne River, and/or other California rivers|
|TRIP LENGTH:||5 days /4 nights|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 18|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Oar rafts and paddle rafts with oar assist|
Welcome to OARS’ California Advanced Rowing Clinic. Professional guides teach this instructional program—each one is equally passionate about the outdoors, whitewater rafting, river safety and sharing their knowledge. They all have formal swiftwater rescue training and extensive backgrounds in leading whitewater rafting trips. This school is designed for those who have previously attended our Rogue River Rowing Clinic or have at least 10 days of commercial or private whitewater rowing experience. Those hoping to become a professional river guide will benefit from this course along with those who would like to successfully navigate their own private trips in oar rafts. Prior rafting experience is a prerequisite. In this course, you will learn to maneuver oar rafts in intermediate to advanced whitewater while fine-tuning many on-river and in-camp techniques needed to become a successful, multi-day, private or commercial river guide. Graduate from this course with a personal, written evaluation from your instructors and an official “Certificate of Completion.”
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every 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:
At 8:00 AM on your first day, you’ll meet us at the OARS American River Outpost. Here we learn advanced hydrology and river communication with a strong emphasis on river terminology. Next, we set off down the South Fork in paddle rafts with an oar-assist to row the 13 mile, Class II/III “Gorge” to focus on oar management, the importance of angles, choosing lines, and forward-style rowing. This evening, we prepare dinner together and camp at our campground.
After breakfast, we load our rafts with center mount frames and shuttle to the Chili Bar put-in. Today, we raft 21 miles of the South Fork American and take out at the Salmon Falls Bridge. As we continue building on skills learned the day before, we also move into solo rowing, using lateral waves, currents and technical moves (such as bounces and spins) to our advantage. We practice re-righting flipped rafts and using only one oar. This evening, we will caravan in our personal vehicles to Angels Camp, CA to set up camp at the OARS warehouse and prepare for our two-day trip on the more advanced Tuolumne River. This evening’s dinner will be enjoyed together at a local restaurant in Angels Camp.
Day 3 – 4
At our Angels Camp warehouse, we prepare breakfast then rig for our two day wilderness trip on the Tuolumne River. From our warehouse, we shuttle in an OARS vehicle to just outside of Groveland, CA. We descend by vehicle into the Tuolumne canyon, rig our boats, and begin our float down the more advanced, Class III/IV run. Over the next two days, we will focus even further on line selection and scouting rapids. Rigging for success will be emphasized along with multi-day camping techniques. Our first night on the Tuolumne will be spent camping along the river; dinner will be prepared together in camp. In the morning, we will make breakfast, rig, and shove off for the day. Lunch will be prepared fresh on the river. In the late afternoon, we will reach the take out. After we load our boats and gear into our shuttle vehicles, we will travel to a campground near Groveland where we will prepare our dinner together then camp for the evening.
On our last day of this course, we will enjoy breakfast in camp then return again to the Tuolumne River for an 18-mile, one-day trip. On this day, we will raft the same section of the Tuolumne River as we did on the previous two days. This is your chance to ask your instructors any last questions and to practice rowing one last time with your instructors nearby. After we take out, we travel via shuttle back to Angels Camp to de-rig and bid farewells. When the course has ended, you will receive personal, written feedback along with an official “Certificate of Completion” from your instructors.
Included in Your Trip Cost
- Skilled, professional guide instructors
- 5 days of instruction with, generally, a 2:1 student ratio
- 4 nights catered camping
- All meals from lunch on day one through lunch on the last day
- Expedition equipment including splash jacket and dry bags, 2-person shared tent, high quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddle, helmet, and personal flotation device
- Wetsuit–weather dependent (does not include footwear of any kind, including wetsuit booties)
- Transfers to and from OARS American River Outpost to our South Fork American River put-ins and take-outs
- Transfers to and from OARS Angels Camp Warehouse to our Tuolumne River put-ins and take-outs
- Personal, written feedback from your instructor including an official “Certificate of Completion”
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to the OARS American River Outpost and back from our Angels Camp Warehouse
- River Access Fees
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Sleeping bag & a deluxe 3-inch thick foam and air-filled sleeping pad (these items may be rented from OARS)
- Single supplement tent ($30)
- Insurance of any kind, including travel insurance
- Alcoholic beverages
- Items of personal nature, including wetsuit booties (an equipment list will be provided)
Available For Rent
Please indicate on your guest registration form whether you want to rent a sleep kit or if you prefer to bring your own.
- Sleep Kit: Can be rented for $40 per person. Sleep kits consist of a sleeping bag, a deluxe 3-inch thick foam and air-filled sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet, pillow and pillowcase.
- Sleeping Pad Only: The deluxe 3-inch thick foam and air-filled sleeping pad only may be rented for $15
- 2-Person Tent: We provide 2 person tents. It is assumed you will share this tent with another person. You can (if you prefer) have a tent to yourself for an additional charge of $30 per tent.
- 2-Person Pre-set Platform Tent (with 2 twin beds, sheets, pillows, and down comforters): $85 per night on Sunday through Thursday; $100 per night on Friday and Saturday
TRIP PREPARATION CHECK LIST
☐Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: Help to protect yourself, your belongings, and your vacation with the purchase of a short-term Travel Protection Plan. A Travel Protection Plan can help cover your non-refundable payments should you have to cancel your trip due to a covered illness or injury. Because we begin working to prepare for your trip upon receipt of your deposit, and may be turning other prospective guests away while holding space for you, there are cancellation fees that will apply regardless of why or when you might need to cancel. The cost for the optional Travel Protection is listed on your trip invoice. All Plan Benefits are administered by Trip Mate, Inc. (in CA & UT, dba Trip Mate Insurance Agency). For a complete description of Trip Mate’s Plan online go to: http://www.tripmate.com/wpF431Y or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan # F431Y). Please Note: Purchase this Plan within 14 days of the date we receive your initial deposit and the exclusion for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions will be waived, provided you are not disabled from travel at the time the plan is purchased.
☐ Trip Forms (online): Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation e-mail for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving within 60 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.
☐ Reserve flights, shuttles and lodging: Verify with your adventure consultant that your trip has met minimum numbers prior to booking flights and/or reserving overnight lodging for the night before and after your trip, if applicable.
☐ Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. Watch at https://www.oars.com/experience/safety/ or call 800-346-6277 to request a free DVD. Please don’t leave home without watching.
☐ Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitation you may have as soon as possible. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip.
Payments: Final payment is due in our office 60 days prior to your trip (refer to your invoice for final payment date). Please let us know if you would like us to automatically charge your credit card on file when final payment is due.
Meeting Place & Time
Our meeting place and the location for OARS’ California Advanced Rowing Clinic is at OARS American River Outpost in Lotus/Coloma. Click here for a Google Map.
Getting to the OARS American River Outpost
Note: Due to the remote locations of both Lotus, CA (meeting place) and Angels Camp, CA (ending place), it is highly recommended that you either drive your own personal vehicle to this course or rent a vehicle at a nearby airport location for the duration of your trip. If this is not possible, please contact your Adventure Consultant immediately to discuss alternate transportation options.
- From Sacramento on U.S. Hwy 50: Follow Hwy 50 east toward Placerville and South Lake Tahoe. Take the Ponderosa Road exit (Exit #37), turn left onto Ponderosa/S. Shingle Road and cross over the freeway. At the second stop light, take the right turn on N. Shingle Road toward Coloma/Lotus. After about 4.5 miles N. Shingle Road turns into Lotus Road—continue going straight for about 6 more miles. As you approach Lotus, pass through the town’s first stop sign and continue to the 3-way stop sign intersection with Hwy 49. Turn left onto Hwy 49 (north) and cross the bridge over the South Fork of the American. Right after crossing the river, you will see the “River Park” shopping center on the left, with signs for Hotshot Imaging. Please use the center’s second entrance, where a left-turn lane is provided at River Park Drive. Look to the back of the shopping center, where you will see the entrance to our American River Outpost.
- From South Lake Tahoe: Take Hwy 50 west to Placerville. Turn right on Hwy 49 (north) and follow the directions from Placerville listed below.
- From Placerville: Proceed north on winding Hwy 49 for about 9.5 miles (about 20—25 minutes) through the town of Coloma. Just past Coloma and the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, cross the bridge over the South Fork of the American. Right after crossing the river, you will see the “River Park” shopping center on the left, with signs for Hotshot Imaging. Please use the center’s second entrance, where a left-turn lane is provided at River Park Drive. Look to the back of the shopping center, where you will see the entrance to our campground.
- From Reno/North Lake Tahoe: Take Interstate 80 west to Auburn. Take Hwy 49 south from Auburn for about 17 miles (about 30 minutes), arriving in the Coloma/Lotus area. After passing through Lotus’ 3-way stop sign (intersection with Marshall Grade Road), continue past the gas station and look for us behind the “River Park” shopping center on the right. Before Hotshot Imaging’s building, turn right onto River Park Drive and look for the entrance to our campground in the back of the retail center.
Mileage and Driving Times
|From San Francisco||140 miles (3 hours)|
|From Sacramento||50 miles (1 hour)|
|From South Lake Tahoe||62 miles (1½ hours)|
|From North Lake Tahoe||98 miles (2 hours)|
|From Reno||130 miles (2½ hours)|
|From Los Angeles||420 miles (8 hours)|
These are approximate mileage and driving times and do not take into account any delays. Please allow yourself extra driving time.
If you’re arriving by car, parking is available at the OARS American River Outpost.
OARS cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage to vehicles or their contents.
- Many people enjoy the time saved by flying into Sacramento (SMF), which is served by most major airlines. A variety of car rental companies are available at the airport. Weekly rentals are often an inexpensive option.
- Oakland (OAK) and San Francisco (SFO) are also nearby airports, and are approximately 2.5-3 hours away from Coloma.
By Van Shuttle from the Sacramento Airport:
Amtrak offers service to the nearby town of Auburn. Please note, car rentals are not available in Auburn.
After Your Trip
On the final day of your river adventure, you will be returned to Angels Camp, CA. You should arrive back by approximately 7:00 PM.
Note: If you are not planning on driving your own vehicle or renting a vehicle for this course, please alert us immediately. Transportation options (busses, flights, rental cars) from Angels Camp are extremely limited. It may be possible for you catch a ride with an OARS employee back to the American River Outpost the day after the trip ends, but this is not guaranteed.
Pre- and Post-Trip Accommodations
We recommend that you make reservations well in advance in order to guarantee lodging. (Pre- and post-trip lodging is not included in the trip cost).
Before your trip, near Lotus, CA:
After your trip, near Angels Camp, CA:
Before your trip, near Lotus, CA:
- Riverside camping is available at the OARS American River Outpost. Please ask us about the details—you must reserve ahead of time.
- Camp Lotus, Lotus (530) 622-8672
After your trip, near Angels Camp, CA:
The water on the South Fork of the American River and the Tuolumne River is released from hydroelectric facilities located upstream. Such water releases are not subject to the control of commercial rafting companies. It is important for our guests to understand, the water flow on these rivers is directly related to demand for hydropower. The guides are “tuned-in” to the water release schedule and will adjust the logistics of each trip to maximize the whitewater excitement.
The number and variety of boats used during guide school may 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 trainees. 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. The following boats may be a part of your experience:
Paddle Raft with Oar Assist—The most agile of any boat in the OARS fleet, your guide powers the raft with two hefty oars on a rear-mounted frame, while the crew wields single blade paddles up front for added horse-power. Helmets required. (Four to eight paddlers)
Oar Raft—The OARS flagship. The oar rafts carry the bulk of the gear on most of our multi-day adventures. Your guide pilots with long oars from a center-mounted aluminum frame. Ample deck space allows for lounging in calm stretches, while the sturdy weight and width of the boat gives your guide confidence to hit the big waves head-on. (Two to four passengers.)
Our ‘classroom’ extends from the river, to our riverside kitchens, to time around the campfire learning from our veteran guides. At the OARS American River Outpost, there are hot showers, running water, and a few public outlets for you to charge your electronic devices. On the first night in camp, a crew member will give a demonstration on setting up a tent, which you will see is quick and easy. Once we are on the Tuolumne, there will not be access to electrical outlets or modern facilities. Camp will be set up by the group once we reach our camping spot and dinner will be prepared together. In the morning, after breakfast, camp will be broken down as a group.
The meals we serve are hearty and delicious, comprised of fresh ingredients and a variety of foods. A typical morning might start with French toast, bacon, fruit, orange juice and coffee or tea. Lunch could include a delicious spread of cold cuts and cheeses with several types of bread or pitas stuffed with veggies and hummus. There are always cookies and a cooling drink to top it off. At dinner, our students form cook-teams to prepare steaks, salmon, chicken enchiladas, or delicious pasta dishes. Dinner generally includes a salad; desserts are frequent. Hors d’oeuvres are also included as part of the menus that we will teach you to prepare and present.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we should consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs. However, there may be a supplemental menu fee ranging from $5-25 per person per day, to cover any increase in our costs.
Beyond our standard menu, we can provide options for vegetarian, vegan and many allergy-restricted diets without applying a fee. However, we cannot always provide the same diversity or sophistication for restricted diets as we do for our regular menu. Similarly, certain allergen-free snack foods are difficult or impossible to source in our locations, so feel free to bring your own favorite snacks to supplement our provisions. Please let your Adventure Consultant know if you intend to do so.
We cannot guarantee that cross-contamination from allergens will not occur during meal prep, and reserve the right to refuse service to anyone as it relates to safety, including the potential for a medical emergency caused by a severe food allergy. Also, due to the constraints of cooking for a large group in a wilderness setting, availability of ingredients or specialty items in remote locations, and limited packing space, we are unable to cater to dietary preferences (likes or dislikes).
Beverages / Alcohol
We provide plenty of water and lemonade and two sodas per person per day. You are welcome to bring your own favorite beverages, alcoholic (assuming you are at least 21 years of age) or non-alcoholic, in non-glass containers. For your safety and the safety of others, alcoholic beverages are limited to evening enjoyment.
We are obligated to adhere to the regulations established by the managing agency with jurisdiction over the area in which our trip operates. Use of marijuana on federal lands, whether it be medicinal or recreational, is illegal and therefore we ask that you refrain from bringing it with you on your OARS trip.
We carry sufficient drinking water with us to provide for your needs throughout the trip. Water jugs for refilling personal water bottles are accessible in camp, at lunch time and before hikes. In some cases, we will re-supply water jugs with water filtered through a purification system we provide. (No iodine is used in the purification process.)
Bathing and Toilets
The OARS American River Outpost has hot showers and flush toilets for our use. When we travel to the Tuolumne River, we will use our own toilet system. While the idea of a river trip is appealing to most people, many are inhibited or reluctant because of modesty or uncertainty regarding personal hygiene. To minimize our environmental impact, we carry out all solid human waste. Each day at camp, we set up a portable toilet system in a discrete location away from the tent sites. It is essentially a toilet without plumbing, and it’s available each afternoon from the time you pull into camp until you leave camp the next day. Toilet paper and a convenient hand-washing station are provided.
We also carry a small container called the “day tripper,” which can be easily accessed during the day should the need arise. It is a personal disposable toilet, which includes an odor-proof transport bag, chemical solidifier and odor eliminator, toilet paper and an oversized hand wipe.
On popular stretches of wilderness rivers, a commonly heard refrain is “dilution is the solution to pollution.” We practice this approach by urinating in the river during the day. At camp, we provide pee buckets so that during the night, urination can occur in a secluded location and then be dumped into the river current, where it will be carried downstream.
Bathing with soap is discouraged in the Tuolumne River and is prohibited in any of the side streams that feed into the river. If you bring soap, we recommend using a liquid biodegradable soap such as Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’s (www.drbronner.com), which can be purchased in most stores that have a camping section. Disposable anti-bacterial towelettes (Coleman Swash Cloths, baby wipes, etc.) are good alternatives to submersion in the river and are especially convenient for cool-weather trips.
For Women Only
Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. We recommend you bring some sandwich-size zip-loc™ bags. These bags can be used to store feminine products during the day while you are on the river and can be disposed of when you reach camp. (For tampon users: o.b. ® tampons are ⅓ the size of regular tampons, tuck discreetly into pockets and have less paper wrapping.) Many women suggest bringing a small supply of baby wipes. We provide some feminine products on most trips for emergencies.
You may want to bring a small waterproof bag to hold your camera and other items you might need during the day. While most rafting-specific bags are designed to be waterproof, you may wish to place your camera in a zip-loc™ plastic bag or waterproof casing for additional protection. We also strongly recommend you take out a rider on your homeowner’s policy to cover your camera—especially if it’s fine equipment. Make sure to bring additional memory cards, batteries and any other extras you will need. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option. You are welcome to recharge your camera at night (at the OARS American River Outpost only) once all activities have concluded.
Electronics & Technology
The use of electronic devices, especially music players and flying drones, on your trip may represent an intrusion into the wilderness experience of your fellow guests. We ask that you be mindful of the impacts to others and respect the wilderness nature of the trip. Please bring headphones if you intend to listen to music during the trip and leave your drone at home.
Many of our guests travel with their smartphone even though there is no cell service. On a trip like this, there is always the risk of water damage to smartphones and other electronic devices, even when they are stowed in a dry bag. If you intend to take your phone with you on the river, consider investing in a small, waterproof container just for your phone.
Once you are on the river there is limited communication with the “outside world.” Cell phone service is not usually available during the day while on the river, but at the OARS American River Outpost, there is service for most phones. There is no service on the Tuolumne River and extremely limited service in the surrounding areas. If you have someone that needs to contact you about an emergency at home and they cannot reach you on your cell phone, they should call our office (800-346-6277). For your family at home, you should define for them what you consider an emergency and provide them with instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your school.
Fire activity frequently impacts the air quality on our trips, and occasionally wildfires may be present in the immediate vicinity of where we’re traveling. Smoke impacts are more likely in the latter-half of the summer season, so those with asthma or other respiratory conditions may wish to steer clear of this time frame. In general, we will not cancel a trip on account of smoky conditions, except in cases of clear danger to life or property. Necessary changes to logistics and/or destination may occur with very short notice as fire conditions are constantly changing. We will do our best to keep you apprised of excessively smoky conditions that can be foreseen for your upcoming trip, but we also encourage you to stay informed about local fire activity: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
Our guides do not carry firearms on our trips, and in most cases are prohibited from doing so by the managing agency. As a matter of preference, we ask all our guests to kindly leave your own firearms at home or in your vehicle.
Weather & Water Conditions
You may want to check one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast.
For weather in Coloma, CA, we recommend the following website: www.wunderground.com.
Average Air and Water Temperatures
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F|
For weather in Groveland, CA we recommend the following website: www.wunderground.com.
Average Air and Water Temperatures
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F||Notes|
|April||60-70||35-40||50-52||Extremely variable weather; more wildlife & wildflowers|
|May||70-75||40-44||53-55||Chance of spring showers—but usually beautiful, sunny days|
|June||80-85||46-50||56-58||High-water time; rare rain-clouds|
Water Levels & Temperature
Spring snow melt in the mountains provides us with the water to have our fun rafting the Sierra Nevada’s rivers. Water levels sufficient for rafting on the South Fork during the summer months are a result of releases from hydroelectric facilities located upstream. When spring runoff is highest, water is released from the reservoirs in abundance to make room for the in-flow. This can lead to high flows on our South Fork trips. Peak runoff can vary widely from April into June. High water trips equate to a more intense whitewater experience; a high level of physical fitness is recommended. Water temperatures are coldest during the high water period and wetsuits will be required. In reality, the water is quite cold even in late summer, but lower flows and warm air temperatures mitigate the risk of hypothermia.
The amount of water in the Tuolumne River is dictated by the winter snowpack in the highlands of Yosemite. As the snow melts in the spring, the river volume is largely controlled by 5 upstream reservoirs, which are managed by Hetch Hetchy Water and Power on behalf of the city of San Francisco. When spring runoff is highest, water is released from the reservoirs in abundance to make room for the in-flow. This can lead to high flows on our trips. Peak runoff usually occurs between mid-May and mid-June, but can vary widely from early May into July. Again, high water trips equate to a more intense whitewater experience and a high level of physical fitness is recommended.
Essential Eligibility Criteria for River Trips
The following are the physical and mental eligibility criteria for all participants on any OARS river trip.
- Ability to remain seated and balanced while in a whitewater craft while holding on with at least one hand.
- Wear a Type V Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches). Wearing leg straps may be required to ensure proper fit. Where required, properly wear a helmet.
- Ability to independently board and disembark a boat four to ten times each day. This may require stepping into the boat, and then maneuvering your body over and across tubes and fixed objects into a seated position.
- Ability to independently navigate shoreline terrain, including safely maneuvering around and across boulders, rocks, and slippery and uneven surfaces, under low branches, and around vegetation. This includes the ability to maintain your balance near precipitous ledges or cliffs.
- Ability to independently swim in whitewater or swift currents while wearing a PFD. This includes being an active participant in your own rescue, including having the ability to (a) keep your airway passages sealed while underwater, and regain control of your breathing when being submitted to repeated submersion under waves or currents; (b) orient yourself to new “in-river” surroundings; (c) reposition yourself in the water to different swimming positions; (d) swim aggressively to a boat or to shore in whitewater; (e) receive a rescue rope, paddle, or human assistance, and possibly let go of the same; (f) get out from under an overturned boat.
- Ability to swim 100 yards in flat water while wearing a PFD.
- Ability to assist another passenger who has fallen out of the boat by pulling them back in.
- Ability to follow both verbal and non-verbal instructions given by guides in all situations, including during stressful or dangerous situations, and to effectively communicate with guides and other guests.
- Ability to carry personal dry bags and other personal gear (as heavy as 20-30 pounds) uphill from the boats to your camping location and back the next morning, independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member. (This only applies on multi-day trips).
- Ability to manage all personal care independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member.
- If taking prescription medications, have the ability to maintain proper dosage by medicating independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member.
- Ability to remain adequately fed, hydrated, and properly dressed so as to avoid environmental injuries such as hypothermia, heat related illness, sunburn and frostbite.
The above criteria, if not met, will disqualify a person from participating in a river trip with OARS. The criteria exist for your own safety and that of all trip participants. None of the criteria are meant to discriminate on the basis of any physical or mental disability, and are applied uniformly to all potential trip participants, irrespective of the presence or absence of any disability. OARS is committed to making reasonable modifications to any trip for any persons with a disability, so long as they do not fundamentally alter the nature of the trip.
Further Information About Our Expectations of Trip Participants
The following paragraphs are meant to further inform all potential participants of the expectations for all participants in order to promote a safe, enjoyable experience for everyone on a trip. There may be requirements, whether physical or mental, that are not specifically applied “essential eligibility criteria”, but that help our guests understand the reality of being on a wilderness river trip.
Our primary goal is to minimize the risks associated with adventure trips in a wilderness environment. The trip involves physical exertion and exposure to the elements, including cold water and the potential for heat, sun, wind, rain and snow. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight, lack conditioning, or have other physical limitations or ailments that interfere with the realistic encounters on a wilderness river can endanger themselves, other guests, and the guides. Please consult your doctor if you have medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure.
It is very important that each trip participant take an active role in their own safety. You will likely encounter wilderness conditions that you are unfamiliar with, and those conditions may change rapidly. It is critical to pay attention at all times, to be aware of your surroundings, and to avoid taking unnecessary risks. Even a non-life threatening injury in a wilderness setting can become a major emergency for you, and can endanger the entire group. Swimming alone or hiking alone is discouraged. Excessive alcohol consumption or illicit drug use is not tolerated. Using common sense, and following both the explicit instruction and the lead of your guides can go a long way towards keeping yourself and the group safe. Some obvious things to avoid in camp and on shore (by way of example) are: walking around without shoes in camp, approaching wild animals, not paying attention to what is above or around your tent site that could harm you, not paying attention to hazards such as poison ivy and rattlesnakes, and walking near precipitous ledges.
River trips, particularly those involving whitewater, are inherently risky. While the risk of a trip is part of what makes it an exciting adventure, you must be entirely respectful of the risk that such a trip poses. It is important that you are confident in your swimming ability, and your ability to stay calm in the event you become a non-voluntary swimmer. Your odds of becoming a non-voluntary swimmer change with the classification of a rapid, boat selection and environmental factors. On class IV and greater whitewater, the probability that you will become a non-voluntary swimmer is significant. A swim in whitewater is much more difficult and physically draining than swimming in flat water. Swimming in cold water can cause a gasping effect on your respiratory system. This can be overcome by focusing on your breathing and calming yourself down. Swimming in cold water will also much more quickly sap your energy and decrease muscle function than swimming in warmer water. While our guides are highly trained and will do their absolute best to rescue you, a successful rescue is greatly hampered by a swimmer who is unprepared for a swim in whitewater, who fails to actively participate in their own rescue, and who is not able to follow directions while under stress. You will receive a detailed orientation talk at the start of your river trip, but you can get a better idea of what to expect by watching a version of an orientation talk here: http://www.oars.com/videos/oars-whitewater-orientation.
Due to the physical nature of this trip, we highly recommend that you engage in regular exercise for at least three months prior to departure to ensure preparedness. No gym membership required! Simple exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats go a long way to improving core fitness. Start with these exercises and do three sets of ten repetitions each, three to four times per week. Aerobic training is also easy to accomplish without expensive equipment. Take 30 – 40 minutes two to three times a week and go for a brisk walk, easy jog or bike ride around town. If you have access to a pool, lake or the ocean, swimming is obviously an ideal choice for aerobic exercise. It provides a full-body workout and is training that is useful in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid. It is important to push yourself in the months leading up to your trip by increasing your strength training repetitions and the pace of your aerobic training. Check with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program to be sure you are medically safe to participate. Starting an exercise program that is more strenuous than you are ready for may result in injury or risk exacerbating existing health conditions. Getting in shape will certainly add to your enjoyment of the trip.
Packing for Your Trip
Click on this link for helpful information about packing for your trip: https://www.oars.com/video/pack-river-rafting-trip/
During the day—Start with a swimsuit and/or swim trunks and synthetic or merino wool shirt as a base layer. Depending on the weather, temperature and how wet you’re getting in the rapids, additional layers for sun protection or insulation can be added or subtracted.
In camp—When the weather is warm, a pair of lightweight cotton pants or shorts and a shirt make great camp wear. Anytime the forecast calls for cool evenings and cold nights, a dry set of synthetic long underwear is the perfect base layer under long pants and a fleece sweater.
During the day—The best choice is an amphibious shoe that drains water, protects your toes and won’t come off in swirling current. A retired pair of athletic shoes can work well, too. Sport sandals with a heel strap are a good option. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco® at www.chacos.com, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.
In camp—We recommend wearing shoes in camp due to risk of kicking a rock buried in the sand, or stepping on a sharp stick. It’s also nice to put on dry socks and shoes after a day on the water. The athletic shoes or light hikers you bring for hiking can double as your camp shoes. Flip flops or slip-on sandals are OK for wearing in camp only.
Please note: If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!
During the day—Wide-brimmed hats are a good choice for sun protection. Ball camps are also useful since they fit under helmets, which are required attire when paddling our whitewater rivers.
In camp—When the weather is cool or cold, you’ll want a beanie-style hat to wear in camp. Warm hats are the perfect remedy for bed-head as you rise from your sleeping bag to secure your morning cup of coffee or tea, or for retaining warmth in the evening hours after the sun sets.
Hot Weather Trips
During summer months, conditions on the river may be hot and sunny. These trips require less gear than spring or fall trips, but thoughtful packing is still required. Protection from the sun and heat will be critical to your enjoyment and health while on the river and during side hikes. To protect yourself from the sun’s rays, consider bringing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
A good way to keep cool is with long-sleeved cotton shirts. Old collared dress shirts work well. They can be soaked in the water and worn in the raft or carried on a hike for later use. This method of evaporative cooling is very effective. Bandanas are another useful item that can be used in this manner.
Camp-wear should be made of cotton and be loose-fitting. A combination of shorts/skirt and a lightweight top is ideal for staying cool on hot afternoons.
To Avoid Being Cold
Synthetic or merino wool long underwear is a must-have on river trips. It can be worn under shorts, rain gear, T-shirts, etc., then stripped off when the chill of the morning has worn off. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet (which can happen easily), dries quickly, and it’s compact enough to be stuffed into your small waterproof bag or daypack after you take it off. It can be layered under your waterproof rain jacket and pants. In cooler weather, a rain jacket and pants can work better than a wetsuit. This is because the jacket and pants can be put on when it’s cold or when you’re going through whitewater then easily taken off when the sun comes out and it’s hot. On early-season and high-water trips, wetsuits will be provided. Be aware that cotton items, once wet, do not insulate; only synthetic and wool materials will keep you warm during cool, wet weather.
Something warm for your top & bottom: You need to be prepared for inclement weather. Bring a good fleece or wool top and bottom, along with a warm hat and gloves. You’ll want to double up on your base layers so that you’ll have a set to wear in the boat and a set of warm, dry clothes for camp.
Raingear protects you from rain, wind, and the splash of the rapids. It is one of the essential items that all passengers should have no matter what time of year you are traveling. Look for jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, not just water resistant. A hooded jacket is recommended. Good secure closures around your head, neck, wrists and ankles. Do not bring a rain poncho, as it cannot be worn under your PFD.
Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are a must. In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt is the best method for preventing sunburn on your upper body. Light-weight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs.
Bugs & Mosquitoes
Bugs and mosquitos vary depending on location and time of year. It’s a good idea to come prepared with insect repellent. Long sleeved shirts and pants may be desirable at times.
You can either bring your own sleeping bag, pad and ground tarp, or you can rent our sleep kit. If you are purchasing your own bag for the trip, keep in mind that a synthetic-fill bag rated to 20°F (the normal range for an all-around, “three-season” bag) is recommended for early and late season trips.
Equipment and Personal Items:
☐ Sleeping bag, pad, sheet liner, small pillow, pillowcase and 4’x8’ ground tarp. Sleep kits including these items may be rented for $40. (For schools in March-May, we suggest a synthetic-fill bag rated to 20°)
☐ Two 1-liter water bottles
☐ Locking carabiner (for clipping a water bottle or personal dry bag into a raft)
☐ Headlamp or flashlight (consider bringing extra batteries)
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap (consider bringing a spare)
☐ Small, quick-drying towel
☐ Toiletries, including soap and shampoo (preferably biodegradable)
☐ Sunscreen and lip protection: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher (aerosol sprays not recommended)
☐ Moisturizing lotion or cream
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Personal first aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, moleskin, eye drops, etc.)
☐ Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts
☐ Cash for gratuities
☐ River shoes or sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco® chacos.com) “Aqua socks” strongly discouraged
☐ Athletic Shoes or light hikers: for hikes or in camp
☐ Socks: Wool or synthetic for the river and hiking; cotton is ok for camp
☐ Long-sleeved shirt and pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection (old dress shirts work well)
☐ Long pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection
☐ Shade hat or visor with securing strap – flexible enough to wear underneath your helmet
☐ Rain jacket & pants: waterproof (not water resistant). A hooded jacket with secure closures is recommended.
☐ Swimsuit; a two-piece is recommended for women for changing and using the restroom. Tankinis are a great option.
☐ Shorts: 1-2 pair
☐ T-shirts/tops: 1-2
☐ Synthetic or merino wool long underwear: 1 set top & bottom (light-, mid- or expedition-weight depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Jacket: fleece or down/synthetic fill puffy (depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Camp clothes: comfortable and appropriate for season. Cotton recommended for hot weather trips
Additional Essentials for spring (March-May):
☐ Wetsuit booties and/or neoprene wool or synthetic socks (for wearing inside your river shoes)
☐ Fleece top & bottom
☐ Warm hat and gloves: synthetic or wool
☐ Extra set of synthetic or merino wool long underwear top & bottom
☐ Neoprene paddling gloves
☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Sarong: useful for sun protection/changing clothes
☐ Small day pack, waist pack or hydration pack for side hikes
☐ Small waterproof bag to be used on the raft during the day to hold items such as: raingear, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, etc. This bag should have a clip or carabiner to attach it to the raft.
☐ Bathing wipes: pre-moistened disposable towels
☐ Plastic bags: for separating dirty clothes from clean
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Splash jacket and pants
☐ Lightweight cord and clothespins for drying clothes
☐ Sketchbook, notebook and pen, paperback book
☐ Female Urinary Device (for women only)
Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore (www.oars.com/OARStore) and receive FREE SHIPPING in the U.S. + 15% of your purchase helps provide disadvantaged youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
Packing Your Gear
You may find it convenient to pack your gear in a soft duffel bag. If necessary, you can pack that bag into an OARS-issued dry bag. You may also find it convenient to bring a small, waterproof bag for day use. Here you can keep items such as: raingear, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, etc. Please pack light; river attire is very casual―comfort, convenience and boat space takes precedence over style.
If you have extra luggage, it should be locked in your car.
We recommend that you leave your valuables at home. For personal items like wallets, purses and cell phones, we recommend leaving them in your car.
Tipping is optional, but appreciated by our staff. If you are wondering how much to tip, you may consider that we operate in a service industry with a host of behind-the-scenes contributors in addition to the guides on your trip. In general, we suggest a gratuity based on 10 – 15% of the trip cost. It is customary on OARS trips for gratuities to be given to the Trip Leader in the form of cash or personal check, who will then distribute appropriately amongst all the guides and support staff..
In reviewing your statement, you’ll note a $1/person/day donation to Friends of the River, a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting California’s rivers, streams, and watersheds. One-hundred percent of these tax-deductible funds go directly to Friends of the River. This donation is voluntary and may be removed from your invoice if you choose not to participate. Please notify our office if you would prefer to delete the donation from your balance.
If you enjoyed your trip, consider donating to the OARS Foundation. This organization is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the express goal of providing opportunities for young people to experience the magic of the outdoors. Visit https://www.oars.com/oars-foundation/to learn more about how a tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
Watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video
Shop for the latest in top-quality gear for your trip
OARS practices Leave No Trace outdoor ethics
Watch our “How To Pack For A River Trip” video
Additional information about Yosemite
Additional information about the American River
Terms & Conditions
Reservations and Deposits
A $250/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. The balance is due 60 days prior to departure.
Cancellations and Refunds
If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible. The cancellation fee after you’ve made your deposit can range up to the entire trip cost, based upon the number of days prior to your trip that we receive your cancellation notice. We regret we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies. For this reason, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan (see Travel Protection).
Cancellations 60 days or more prior to your trip earn a full refund less a $100/person fee. Cancellations 59 days or less prior to your trip are not refundable.
If you are traveling as part of a charter group please note that deposit/cancellation policies differ from those listed above.
Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying an O.A.R.S. trip. People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.
For those unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we offer an optional Travel Protection Plan from Trip Mate, Inc. (in CA & UT, dba Trip Mate Insurance Agency) that can help protect you, your travel investment and your belongings. Should you have to cancel your trip due to illness or injury – your own or that of an immediate family member – non-refundable payments may be covered by a travel protection plan (see Cancellations and Refunds). For a complete description of Trip Mate’s Plan online go to: www.tripmate.com/wpF431Y or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan #F431Y). Please Note: Purchase this Plan within 14 days of the date we receive your initial deposit and the exclusion for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions will be waived, provided you are not disabled from travel at the time the plan is purchased.
Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release form before the trip, acknowledging awareness that there are inherent risks associated with the trip. Due to the nature of the activities, a condition of your participation is that you will sign this form and return it to our office before the trip begins. Anyone who refuses to sign the form will not be allowed to participate, and consistent with OARS cancellation policy, there will be no refund of the trip fees at that time.
Responsibility – An Important Notice
O.A.R.S. West, Inc. and cooperating agencies act only in the capacity of agent for the participants in all matters relating to transportation and/or all other related travel services, and assume no responsibility however caused for injury, loss or damage to person or property in connection with any service, including but not limited to that resulting directly or indirectly from acts of God, detention, annoyance, delays and expenses arising from quarantine, strikes, theft, pilferage, force majeure, failure of any means of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, civil disturbances, government restrictions or regulations, and discrepancies or change in transit over which it has no control. Reasonable changes in itinerary may be made where deemed advisable for the comfort and well being of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 4 guests), and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts, dories and kayaks do capsize. You could be swept overboard. Your guide will make every attempt to assist, but you must be strong and agile enough to “self-help” and “float-it-out” without further endangering yourself or others. We reserve the right not to accept passengers weighing more than 260 pounds or with a waist/chest size exceeding 56 inches. We may decide, at any time, to exclude any person or group for any reason we feel is related to the safety of our trips. We are experienced at accommodating people with various disabilities. Please give us an opportunity to make you feel welcome. We need to discuss any special requirements ahead of time. On advancement of deposit the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. Prices subject to change without notice.