|MEETING PLACE:||Calaveras Big Trees State Park, 1170 CA-4, Arnold, CA 95223|
|GPS COORDINATES:||38.278723, -120.308098 (Intermittent GPS/cellular service in area)|
|MEETING TIME:||9:00 AM|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 4:00 PM, depending on water levels|
|RIVER RATING:||Class IV (suitable for intermediate to advanced rafters)|
|RIVER MILES:||6 river miles with 8 named rapids|
|PUT-IN:||Sourgrass Recreation Area at Boards Crossing|
|TAKE-OUT:||Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Big Trees Parkway|
|TRIP LENGTH:||1 Day|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 14 (16 at high water)|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Paddle raft; paddle raft with oar assist|
Prepare yourself for an incredible whitewater adventure! The North Fork of the Stanislaus River is a unique Sierra Nevada river that thunders through six miles of granite gorges and deep alpine forest glens. From our put-in just below Sourgrass to our take-out amid the Giant Sequoia groves of Calaveras Big Trees State Park, you will raft through dark green woodlands, endless wild azaleas and old Mi-wuk Native American sites. Best of all, you will challenge some of the most technical and intense Class IV whitewater in California. The “North Stan” descends through massive drops and holes at a dramatic gradient of 70 feet per mile, which creates huge adrenaline-pumping rapids such as Beginner’s Luck, Claw, The Thing, and the mighty Big Trees Falls. This river trip is recommended for paddlers with previous whitewater experience or very aggressive first-time rafters.
- 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 horsepower. Helmets required. (Four to six paddlers)
- Paddle Raft—The sportiest of crafts we put on the water, everybody handles a paddle while the guide gives directions and steers with oars from the stern. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and teamwork begets success. A thrilling way to brave the rapids! Helmets required. (Four to seven paddlers)
The water releases on the North Fork of the Stanislaus are controlled by power companies that release water in conjunction with the demand for power needed in the surrounding area. This causes fluctuations in river levels with little advance notice. The Stan’s watershed is also relatively small; therefore, depending on the snow-pack—as well as the rate of snow-melt—we are unable to guarantee raft-able flows. Please call us the day prior to your trip to check on water levels. The Stan’s spring rafting-season is usually over in June.
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 at Calaveras Big Trees State Park at 9:00 AM. Please be prompt and dressed for the river. Look for the OARS guides/vehicles in the parking area. (Turn right immediately after the Park Tollbooth; then take the first left into the main parking area.) We will board the van for the 20-minute ride to our put-in at Sourgrass. Once at the river, the guides will deliver an orientation and safety talk and fit you with your safety gear. Then, we’re off!
Beginner’s Luck gives us a good warm-up, followed in quick succession by The Claw and Convulsion. With an average gradient of 70 feet per mile, the rapids are intense!
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.
Dig Dog, Whiteout and Rattlesnake are among the continuous steep drops and boulder slaloms we negotiate. After a couple of miles of aggressive paddling through tumultuous whitewater, we face Big Trees Falls—the river’s most infamous rapid. This rapid marks the end of the Class IV section.
As we reach our take-out point, our river trip draws to a close. An OARS van will be waiting to give us a 10-minute ride back to our vehicles. We will return at approximately 4:00 PM.
- Skilled, professional guide service
- Delicious picnic lunch and snacks
- High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddles, helmets and personal flotation devices (PFDs), wetsuits and splash jackets
- Transfers from the meeting place to the river and back
What’s Not Included?
- Transportation to or from the meeting place
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Calaveras Big Trees State Park $10/vehicle entrance fee
- Items of a personal nature (see suggested packing list below)
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
- Wetsuit booties
Meeting Place & Time
The meeting point for our North Fork of the Stanislaus trip is the historic Calaveras Big Trees State Park. We will meet you in the large, main parking lot near the Park’s entrance station at 9:00 AM. Please look for our OARS vans and guides.
Getting to Calaveras Big Trees State Park
- From Stockton, the Central Valley and other points West: From Stockton, travel east on CA State Hwy 4. Approximately 52 miles east of Stockton you will arrive in Angels Camp. Hwy 4 intersects Hwy 49 at the town’s stoplight, but you will continue straight on the expressway towards Murphys, Arnold and the State Park. Continue driving east on Hwy 4 for another 25 miles. Calaveras Big Trees State Park is on the right side of Hwy 4, four miles east of Arnold. Please be prompt, have all your gear ready and be dressed for the river.
Mileage and Driving Times
|From San Francisco||156 miles (3 hours)|
|From San Jose||155 miles (3½ hours)|
|From Sacramento||103 miles (2½ hours)|
|From Los Angeles||410 miles (7 hours)|
|From South Lake Tahoe||115 miles (3 hours)|
|From Reno||169 miles (4 hours)|
|From Stockton||77 miles (2 hours)|
|From Angels Camp||25 miles (40 minutes)|
These are approximate mileage and driving times and do not take into account any delays, so please allow yourself extra time. Additional maps of the area can be found at: www.maps.google.com
Pre- and Post-Trip Accommodations
Pre- and Post-Trip Accommodations (not included in your trip cost)
We recommend you make reservations well in advance in order to guarantee lodging.
- Arnold Meadowmont Lodge, Arnold (888) 538-1222
- Murphys Historic Hotel, Murphys (800) 532-7684
- WorldMark Resort, Angels Camp (209) 736-2999
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 Arnold, CA: www.weather.com or http://www.accuweather.com.
Average Air and Water Temperatures
|Air (Day)°F||Air (Night)°F||Water Temp °F|
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
- Paddle or hold on to the boat while navigating whitewater rapids
- Navigate uneven terrain
- 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 OARS guides.
We recommend starting with bathing suit/swim trunks and a lightweight synthetic shirt. In cool weather, add layers of synthetic long underwear and warmer clothes as needed. It can be very cool in the morning even in June, but especially in April or May. As the day warms, one may shed layers, though you might wear your synthetic /wool long underwear and fleece during the entire trip (along with our included wetsuit and splash jacket, of course.)
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.
☐ 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®)“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.
- There is an additional $10.00 State Park Day Use Fee to park your car in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. This fee enables you to enjoy the Giant Sequoias, hiking trails and visitor center after your river trip.
- 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.
- Provided wetsuits and splash jackets (on early-season or cold-weather trips) 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 needs that we will 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.
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 advise 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’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 funds go directly to Friends of the River, and your contribution is tax-deductible. 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.
The O.A.R.S. Foundation is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the express goal of providing opportunities for young people to experience the magic of a river trip. Please visit www.oarsfoundation.org to learn more about how your tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
Watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video
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Calaveras Big Trees State Park
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 OARS 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 protection 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 OARS 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 http://www.travelinsure.com/cobrand/select/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 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 8 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.