|MEETING PLACE:||The O.A.R.S. meeting place is a pullout 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:||18 river miles with 6+ 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 Merced River is one of the defining features of Yosemite National Park. Originating in the high Sierra Nevada, this free-flowing river tumbles into one of America’s most iconic valleys. The Merced first cascades over spectacular Nevada and Vernal Falls, where its crystal-clear waters proceed to meander through the Park’s picturesque valley and past a backdrop of aspens, cottonwoods and evergreens, grassy meadows and dramatic, glacier-carved mountain peaks. Just outside the Park, we are able to launch our rafts and start the fun.
The Merced River is a snapshot of a reawakening Yosemite wilderness. With wildflowers covering the steep hillsides, our spring and early-summer season on the river comes fast and furious as we enjoy some of California’s best Class III/IV whitewater. Together with family and friends—both new and old—we spend a memorable day experiencing the excitement of rushing, crashing, crystalline whitewater.
- Paddle Raft with Oar Assist—During periods of high water and mid-season one-day trips, we will only offer paddle rafts with an oar assist. The most agile of any boat in the O.A.R.S. 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 six paddlers)
- Paddle Raft—In a paddle raft, everybody handles a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the back of the boat. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run. First-time paddlers on the Tuolumne should be aggressive and adventurous. Helmets required. (Four to seven paddlers)
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 O.A.R.S. 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 O.A.R.S. shuttle will be waiting to take us back to the 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 wetsuits (Wetsuits are only provided on early season—April to May—and cold weather trips)
- Transfers from the O.A.R.S. 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
- Wetsuit booties
- Items of a personal nature (see suggested packing list below)
- Insurance of any kind, including travel insurance
Meeting Place & Time
We’ll meet at 9:00 AM. The O.A.R.S. meeting place is a wide dirt pullout on the west side of 140. Look for our vehicles, and the yellow and blue O.A.R.S. sign!
- 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 O.A.R.S. meeting place is 22.6 miles 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.
*Coming from Yosemite expect possible delays of 15 minutes or more at the Ferguson Slide Bridge. Check out the Caltrans Quickmap for up to date details.
Mileage and Driving Times
|From San Francisco||196 miles (4 hours)|
|From Sacramento||180 miles (3½ hours)|
|From South Lake Tahoe||203 miles (4½ hours)|
|From Los Angeles||315 miles (6 hours)|
|From Angels Camp||94 miles (2 hours)|
These are approximate mileage and driving times and do not take into account any delays. Please allow yourself extra time. Additional maps of the area can be found at: www.maps.google.com
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 O.A.R.S.
- Cedar Lodge, El Portal (209) 379-2612
- Miners Inn, Mariposa (209) 742-7777
- Tenaya Lodge, Fish Camp (888) 514-2167
Camping and Hostels
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 sites for weather in El Portal, CA: www.weather.com or http://www.accuweather.com.
Average Air and Water Temperatures
|Air (Day)°F||Air (Night)°F||Water Temp °F||Notes|
|April||63-67||33-37||50||Extremely variable weather; lots of wildflowers|
|May||71-75||40-44||53||Possibility for late spring storms, high-water possible|
|June||80-84||46-50||56||Warm days; chance of showers; potential high-water|
|July||88-92||52-56||60||Hot, sunny days; low-water, ideal for swimming|
Our primary goal is for you to have an enjoyable experience. The nature of the trip is such that it involves some physical exertion and potential exposure to the elements, including cold water, heat, sun, wind and rain. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight or lack conditioning 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. In general, trip participants must be able to:
- Wear a Type V Coast Guard approved personal floatation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches)
- Climb on and off the boats multiple times
- Navigate uneven terrain
- Paddle of hold on to the boat while navigating whitewater rapids
- Self-rescue by swimming to a boat or to shore in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
- Self-rescue by climbing into a boat with the help of another person in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
What To Bring
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 O.A.R.S. guides.
We recommend starting with bathing suit/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. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are a must. In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt and/or light-weight pants are the best method for preventing sunburn.
☐ Sunscreen & lip protection: waterproof and SPF 30 or higher
☐ Water bottle
☐ Shade hat/visor, flexible enough to wear underneath your helmet
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap
☐ Swimsuit; a two-piece is recommended for women 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® chacos.com)
“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 and receive FREE SHIPPING in the U.S. + 15% of your purchase helps provide disadvantaged 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 well 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. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option.
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 O.A.R.S. You will need to contact them separately to purchase these pictures.‘Picture This…Rapid Shooter’ is one such company; visit them at www.rapidshooter.net after your river trip. Their phone number is (209) 379-2267.
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.
If you feel your guides have provided a very special trip for you, you may leave a gratuity with the trip leader to be shared among the crew. This tip is entirely at your discretion, though we recommend a general tipping guideline of anything between 8% and 12% of trip cost. If you plan to tip, remember to bring a personal check or cash—ATMs are hard to find in the backcountry!
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.
If you enjoyed your trip, consider donating to the O.A.R.S. 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 www.oarsfoundation.org 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
O.A.R.S. practices Leave No Trace outdoor ethics
Terms & Conditions
Full payment is required at the time of reservation.
Cancellations and Refunds
If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible.
|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) 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)|
|Late arrivals or “no shows”||No refund or credit|
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.
We strongly recommend that you protect yourself, your belongings and your vacation through the purchase of a travel insurance plan. They cover your non-refundable payments in most cases, should you have to cancel your trip due to illness or injury—yours or that of an extended family member—even at the last minute. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, pre-existing medical conditions may be covered. No one wants an expensive helicopter to become necessary, but if you need to be evacuated or if an immediate family member dies and the local management agency is requested to notify you by helicopter, the helicopter expenses will be your responsibility. Evacuations can be prolonged, difficult and expensive. Personal belongings and cameras are carried entirely at the owner’s risk, and O.A.R.S. accepts no responsibility for lost, damaged, delayed or stolen property. You can protect yourself through Travel Insurance Services or with alternative insurance. Call Travel Insurance Services at 800-937-1387 or visit their website at travelinsure.com/cobrand/OARS.
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 O.A.R.S. 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 and kayaks can 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.