|MEETING PLACE:||The OARS meeting place is a pullout on the left (west) side of the road about 9.4 miles northeast of Mariposa on Highway 140 (1.3 miles east of the Midpines Post Office)|
|MEETING TIME:||9:00 AM|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 5:00 PM, depending on water levels|
|RIVER RATING:||Class III/IV (Suitable for aggressive beginners and intermediate rafters)|
|RIVER MILES:||16 river miles with 8+ named rapids|
|TAKE-OUT:||Railroad Flat (may vary with high or low water levels)|
|TRIP LENGTH:||1 Day|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 9 (14 at high water)|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Paddle raft; paddle raft with oar assist|
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 may ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We can’t 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, Paddle Raft with Oar Assist
Learn more about the boats on your trip at: https://www.oars.com/experience/boats/
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, depending on the preceding winter’s snowfall.
WHITEWATER ORIENTATION VIDEO:
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.
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:
Meet your trip leader and fellow adventurers at 9:00 AM; please be prompt! Once everyone has arrived, we will board our shuttle to the river. At the Indian Flat river put-in point, you will meet the rest of your OARS crew. The guides will deliver an orientation and safety talk then fit you with your safety gear.
Exciting and wet, Cranberry Rapid is the first big rapid you encounter and is a great way to start your day. Throughout the afternoon, Class III and IV challenges like Ned’s Gulch and Gauge Hole provide thrills as we continue down the Wild and Scenic Merced River. On warm days, the slower stretches of cool water are great for an invigorating swim.
Come lunchtime, we will pull over to a beach for a delicious picnic. Your guides will lay out an abundant spread of cold cuts, cheeses, veggies and breads, or perhaps a tasty taco salad for roll-your-own burritos. Lunch is always accompanied by fruit, cookies, cold water and lemonade.
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. As we reach Railroad Flat, our river trip draws to a close. At the take-out point, an OARS shuttle will be waiting to take us back to your vehicle. You will generally return to your car sometime before 5:00 PM, depending on water levels and weather conditions.
- Skilled, professional guide service
- Delicious, riverside picnic lunch
- High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddle, helmet, personal flotation device and wetsuit and splash tops (Wetsuits and splash tops are only provided on early season—April to May—and cold weather trips)
- Transfers from the OARS meeting place to the river and back
What’s Not Included?
- Transportation to the meeting place and back
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- River Access Fees
- Wetsuit booties or shoes of any kind
- Items of a personal nature (see suggested packing list below)
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
Meeting Place & Time
We’ll meet at 9:00 AM. The OARS meeting place is a wide dirt pullout on the west side of 140. Look for our vehicles, and the yellow and blue OARS sign! Click here for a Google map.
- From the San Francisco Bay Area, take I-580 East to I-205, then east on Hwy 120 to Hwy 99. South on Hwy 99 to Merced, then Hwy 140 east through Mariposa. From the intersection of Hwys 49 and 140 in Mariposa, travel for 8.6 miles up 140E and then you will see our meeting place on the left (1.3 miles past the Midpines Post Office).
- From Yosemite* or El Portal, the OARS meeting place is 22.6 miles (approximately 40 minutes) southwest on Hwy 140 from the Arch Rock Entrance to Yosemite, on the right (or west) side of the highway. Our meeting point is 0.4 miles past the Yosemite Bug Hostel driveway and bus stop.
* Check out the Caltrans Quickmap for up-to-date details on possible delays.
Mileage and Driving Times
|From Sacramento||180 miles (3½ hours)|
|From South Lake Tahoe||203 miles (4½ hours)|
These are approximate mileage and driving times and do not take into account any delays. Please allow yourself extra time.
Pre- and Post-Trip Accommodations (not included in your trip cost)
We recommend that you make your lodging reservations well in advance. Yosemite and its outlying areas are extremely popular, and lodges fill up quickly. Please mention you are rafting with OARS.
- Tenaya Lodge (888) 514-2167
- Yosemite Bug (866) 826-7108
- Indian Flat Campground (209) 379-2339
In Yosemite National Park
- Yosemite Lodging/Camping (801) 559-5000
Weather & Water Conditions
You may want to check one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast. We recommend you check the following web site for weather in El Portal, CA: http://www.weather.com.
Average Air and Water Temperatures
|Air (Day)°F||Air (Night)°F||Water Temp °F||Notes|
|April||63-67||33-37||42-44||Extremely variable weather; lots of wildflowers|
|May||71-75||40-44||42-46||Possibility for late spring storms, high-water possible|
|June||80-84||46-50||46-52||Warm days; chance of showers; potential high-water|
|July||88-92||52-56||54-60||Hot, sunny days; low-water, ideal for swimming|
River Runners Responsibility Code
1. Read the pre-trip literature and arrive at the meeting place on time.
2. Understand the risks: your safety is ultimately your responsibility.
3. Treat your fellow guests and guides with respect and courtesy; harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
4. Wear clothing and personal protective equipment suitable for the current conditions.
5. Listen to and follow the guides’ instructions.
6. Abide by the managing agency’s rules.
7. No drugs or alcohol prior to, or during, your trip.
8. Minimize your impact on the environment.
9. Wear the OARS-issued and properly–fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times when in the boats or swimming. Wear a helmet when required.
10. Your children are your responsibility!
Essential Eligibility Criteria for River Trips
Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our essential eligibility requirements.
What To Bring
Click on this link for helpful information about packing for your trip: https://www.oars.com/video/wear-bring-one-day-rafting-trip-oars/
The information below is subject to when your trip takes place. The need for warm weather or cold weather items should be based on a reliable weather forecast leading up to your trip.
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®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.
We recommend starting with a bathing suit and/or swim trunks and a lightweight synthetic shirt. For cool weather, add layers of synthetic long underwear and warmer clothes as needed.
Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously! 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.
A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are also a must. Rheos, the official sunglasses sponsor of OARS guides, offers polarized floatable nautical eyewear with 100% UV protection. Use promo code OARS15 to save 15% on any purchase from The Nautical Eyewear Collection.
☐ Sunscreen & lip protection: waterproof and SPF 30 or higher
☐ Water bottle
☐ Hand sanitizer
☐ Shade hat/visor, flexible enough to wear underneath your helmet
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap
☐ Swimwear; a two-piece is recommended over a one-piece for changing and using the restroom.
☐ Shorts (long board shorts preferable for sun protection) and quick-drying top
☐ River/tennis shoes or river sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco®)“Aqua socks” strongly discouraged
☐ Synthetic long underwear for spring trips
☐ Warm socks (neoprene or wool)
☐ Dry clothes and shoes to change into after your trip
Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore + 15% of your purchase helps provide under-resourced youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
- ALWAYS BE PREPARED FOR CHANGING WEATHER! Especially during the months of April, May and early June, California can experience extreme changes in weather.
- Wearing cotton items on a river trip is only appropriate when the weather is hot. Wet cotton will chill your body temperature.
- Our wetsuits do not include “wetsuit booties”–please bring your own, or wear wool socks with tennis shoes as a good alternative.
Please let us know if you have any medical issues or dietary restrictions that we’ll need to consider in planning your trip.
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.
There are several professional companies taking photos of each raft at some of the Merced’s larger rapids, which provide great action shots. These companies are not affiliated with OARS You will need to contact them separately to purchase these pictures. ‘Picture This…Rapid Shooter’ is one such company; to view and purchase photos visit https://store.picthrive.com/oars after your river trip. You can also find pictures via www.rapidshooter.net and click the OARS logo link. Their phone number is (209) 379-2267. (To see your photos online, you must email ‘Picture This…Rapid Shooter’ and request that the photos from your trip be posted to their website. Picture requests can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
Final and full payment is due at the time of booking.
We recommend that you leave your valuables at home or in your private vehicle and take on the river only what’s absolutely necessary. We also recommend you leave dry shoes and clothing in your car to ensure a comfortable drive home.
Tipping is 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 a personal check, who will then distribute appropriately amongst all the guides and support staff.
In reviewing your statement, you will 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 funds go directly to Friends of the River, and your contribution is tax-deductible. See www.friendsoftheriver.org for more information. This donation is voluntary and may be removed from your invoice if you choose not to participate. Please notify our office to delete the donation from your balance.
Gear up in the OARStore where 15% of all purchases help fund outdoor adventures for under-resourced youth
Shop for the latest in top-quality clothing, footwear & outdoor gear
Recommended Reading List
Watch our “What to Wear and Bring” video
Terms & Conditions
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 of the deposit establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Cancelling your trip after your deposit has 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.
Cancellations and Refunds
Your payment is fully refundable, less a 3% processing fee, for 48 hours 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 (see Travel Protection below).
|DATE OF CANCELLATION||CANCELLATION FEE|
|30 or more days prior to your trip||$15/person|
|29 to 7 days prior||Payment can be transferred to another trip within the same year (or to a credit account for the following year) for $30/person transfer fee. No refund.|
|6 days or less prior||50% 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 e-mail 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 prior to 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 cancelled 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 cancelled 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 $30/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, 50% of your trip cost can be credited to another trip, within the same year only. Transfer requests made 6 days or less prior to departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.
Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying an OARS trip. People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.
Because there are costs that you will incur if you cancel the spaces on this trip that we’re now holding for you, or in the event you need to be evacuated during the trip due to an unforeseen illness or injury, we strongly encourage our guests to purchase an optional travel protection plan. A travel protection plan may help reimburse the cost of your pre-paid, non-refundable payments in the event you are prevented from taking your trip for a covered reason. Trip participants must understand that in the event of an illness or injury on a wilderness trip, evacuation can be prolonged, difficult and expensive. For complete details and to purchase the plan we highly recommend, visit: https://www.oars.com/tpp
Please note: To be eligible for coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of your initial trip payment and you must be medically fit to travel at the time you pay for the plan.
Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage can be purchased as stand-alone coverage, independent of a comprehensive travel protection plan. You can get a quote for this type of policy by entering a Trip Cost amount of $0 when getting a quote here:
Please note: By entering a Trip Cost amount of $0, the plan will not include Trip Cancellation coverage and you may not be eligible for Emergency Medical Expense benefits relating to any pre-existing conditions.
Liability Release / Assumption of Risk
Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release / assumption of risk form before the trip, confirming 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, pandemics, 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 wellbeing of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 6 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 guests 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.
OARS trips occur in areas where unpredictable environmental conditions are to be expected. To moderate dangerous situations for our guests and guides, all travelers must obey the rules and regulations as determined by the managing agencies and the Trip Leader and demonstrate reasonable consideration for other guests and OARS employees. We reserve the right to remove any guest from a trip if, in our opinion, that guest’s actions or behaviors pose a threat to the safety of her/himself or others, or if those actions or behaviors compromise the enjoyment of the trip for others. Should a guest be asked to leave a trip, there will be no refund for the unused portion, nor will OARS be responsible for additional expenses incurred by the guest for accommodations, return transport, change fees, etc. Prices subject to change without notice. Upon advancement of deposit, the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. OARS is an equal opportunity provider.