|MEETING PLACE:||La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery 24000 Casa Loma Rd Groveland, CA 95321, 8 miles east of Groveland on Hwy 120 (At the eastern intersection of Hwy 120 & Ferretti Rd); 30 mins west of the Hwy 120, Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite NP.|
|GPS COORDINATES:||37.818955, -120.108526 (Intermittent GPS/cellular service in area)|
|MEETING TIME:||8:30 AM|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 4:00 – 6:00 PM, depending on water levels|
|TRIP LENGTH:||1 – 3 days based on your reservation|
|RIVER RATING:||Class IV(+) (Suitable for intermediate to advanced rafters)|
|RIVER MILES:||18 river miles, with 15 named rapids|
|PUT-IN:||Meral’s Pool, at the bottom of Lumsden Rd|
|TAKE-OUT:||Ward’s Ferry Bridge, Ward’s Ferry Rd|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 14 (16 at high water)|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Paddle raft; oar raft; paddle raft with oar assist|
The Tuolumne River is considered by many to be the best whitewater trip in California. Its pristine headwaters originate in Yosemite National Park, then surge through eighteen miles of non-stop, Class IV(+) rapids. This incredible whitewater adventure includes intricate boulder gardens, rushing cascades and churning holes, which all combine for action-packed paddling from put-in to take-out.
The Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River flows through a beautiful wilderness canyon. The steep hills are lush green in the spring and golden-yellow in the summer, with oak and pine forests flanked by rocky terraces and sandy beaches. Early season wildflowers blanket the canyon in color. Tumbling creeks and glassy pools adorn the river corridor and its side canyons, creating the perfect outdoor experience for rafting, hiking, fishing and swimming.
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:
We will meet at the La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery, at the intersection of Highway 120 and Ferretti Road, eight miles east of Groveland and 30 minutes west of the Hwy 120, Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite National Park. Your guide will hand out dry bags so you may pack your belongings. If you have ordered a sleep kit, it will already be down at the river. We will take a steep shuttle ride down to the river via Lumsden Road to our put-in, where you will meet the rest of your OARS crew. The guides will fit you with your safety gear then present an orientation and safety talk. Then, we’re off!
The Tuolumne is nearly consistent whitewater, with four exciting rapids in the first two miles: Rock Garden, Nemesis, Sunderlands Chute, and Ram’s Head. Come lunchtime, we’ll pull over to a sandy beach for a delicious picnic. Your guides might 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.
Downstream, we encounter the ultimate thrill: Clavey Falls; this Class IV+ rapid features a series of staircase drops which deliver unabashed excitement. Between rapids, you’re welcome to enjoy a refreshing swim in the calm stretches of cool water.
We make camp in mid- to late-afternoon. Your guides will set up the kitchen, restroom and common areas while you set up your tent. The guides will serve hors d’oeuvres while they prepare dinner; while you wait, you are welcome to lounge on the beach with a book, play games or chat with your traveling companions. After dinner, the evening is yours to spend as you wish. You might enjoy the music, stories and jokes which are often shared around the campfire; if you’re in a reflective mood, you might lean back to enjoy the clarity of the big, star-filled sky.
After we eat a hearty breakfast and our gear has been loaded back onto the boats, we get back on the “T”. The adventure continues with exciting Class III-IV rapids such as Grey’s Grindstone, Thread the Needle, and Hell’s Kitchen.
The two-and-a-half and three-day trips provide us lots of time to explore the hidden wonders of this canyon. Exiting explorations along the Tuolumne’s side streams bring us to waterfalls, swimming holes, natural waterslides and clear creeks that offer excellent trout fishing. We’ll also have time for relaxing on the beach, taking in some tanning rays or joining a game of frisbee, volleyball or horseshoes.
As we reach Ward’s Ferry and flat water, our river trip draws to a close. At the take-out, an OARS shuttle will be waiting to give you a ride back to your car. You will usually return between 4:00 – 6:00 PM, depending on water levels.
Included in Your Trip Cost
- Skilled professional guide service
- All meals from lunch on day one through lunch on the last day with limited beer and wine with dinner
- One or two nights catered camping, depending on your trip length
- Two-person tents on a shared basis (there is a $30 charge for a private tent)
- Two waterproof bags to hold your gear for the trip (approximate sealed size: 13” diameter x 25”). Your sleeping bag and pad must fit into one bag and your remaining gear will fit into the other bag. Please note: If you rent our sleep kit, it will come pre-packed in one of the two waterproof bags. Your remaining gear, therefore, must fit into one
- One small, shared waterproof bag per raft for a camera and other small items you’ll want during the day (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter)
- High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including a paddle, helmet and a personal flotation device, which must be worn at all times on the river in compliance with safety regulations
- 12-ounce insulated Klean Kanteen with Café Lid to use for drinks in camp
- Eating utensils, cups and plates, camp chairs
- Transfers from La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery to the river and back
- Wetsuits and splash jackets. After June 1st, wetsuits and splash jackets are available by advance request only. (Wetsuits are only necessary on some early-season trips—generally from April to June.) It is important for you to advise the office of your size ahead of time to ensure we pack the proper-sized wetsuit for you. Our wetsuits do not include “wetsuit booties” – please bring your own, or wear wool socks with tennis shoes as a good alternative.
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to our meeting location in the Groveland area
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- River Access Fees
- Sleeping bag & a deluxe 2.5-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad (these items may be rented from OARS)
- Wetsuit booties
- Single supplement tent ($30)
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
- Items of a personal nature (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 $25 per person. Sleep kits consist of a sleeping bag, a deluxe 2.5-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet, pillow and pillowcase.
- Sleeping Pad Only: The deluxe 2.5-inch thick air-filled 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.
TRIP PREPARATION CHECK LIST
☐ Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: We recommend the purchase of the OARS Travel Protection Plan to help protect you before and during your trip. A travel protection plan can help with reimbursement of your non-refundable payments in the event you have to cancel your trip due to listed reasons such as 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. We list the cost for the optional OARS Travel Protection Plan on your trip invoice.
Beginning December 10, 2018, OARS will offer a travel protection plan that is administered by Arch Insurance Company.
Insurance coverages are underwritten by Arch Insurance Company, NAIC #11150, under policy series LTP 2013 and endorsements thereto. Policies are administered by Arch Insurance Solutions Inc., 855-286-8351, CA license #0I18111, TX license #1787195. Your policy is the contract that specifically and fully describes your coverage. Certain restrictions and exclusions apply and coverages may vary in certain states. Please refer to your policy for detailed terms and conditions; online at: https://www.oars.com/tpp
Consumer disclosures can be found at: https://oars.archinsurancesolutions.com/disclosures
If you enrolled in a Trip Mate policy through OARS on or before December 9, 2018, the policy is still in place and will be administered by Trip Mate through the end date of your scheduled travel with OARS. All information provided in regards to the Trip Mate policy remains relevant. For a complete description of your Trip Mate policy, go online to: http://www.tripmate.com/wpF431Y or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan # F431Y).
☐ 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 your trip 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 90 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 is the La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery, approximately 8 miles east of Groveland, at the eastern intersection of Ferretti Road and Highway 120 (30 minutes west of the Hwy 120, Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite National Park). IMPORTANT: If you are on either a 2 or a 3 day trip, your meeting time is at 8:30 AM. If you are unsure of your trip length, please refer to your account statement or contact your Adventure Consultant. After you park your car, your trip leader will greet you at the River Store/Bakery parking lot and provide you with a thorough trip orientation. He or she will give you two waterproof bags, into which you should pack your belongings. Lock your car; give your keys to a guide for safe-keeping and get ready for a steep descent, in our shuttle vehicle, down Lumsden Rd into the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River canyon.
Click here for a Google map.
Getting to La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery
La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery is on the left-hand (north) side of Hwy 120 at the eastern end of Ferretti Rd, approximately 8 miles east of Groveland. There is also a Ferretti Road in the town of Groveland just past the Groveland Wayside Park, marked with a flashing yellow light and sign. Do not turn here—this is the western end of Ferretti Road. (If you happen to enter Yosemite National Park, you have driven too far.)
If you are coming from Yosemite National Park, the La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery will be on the right-hand (south) side of Hwy 120. The meeting place is about 30 minutes west of the Hwy 120, Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Driving-time from the San Francisco Bay Area is approximately 3 1/2 hours; from Los Angeles approximately 7 ½ hours. These times are estimates. Please allow yourself extra time for the curving mountain roads.
Mileage and Driving Times
|Sacramento to Groveland||132 miles (2½ hours)|
|San Francisco Bay Area to Groveland||140 miles (3-4 hours)|
|Los Angeles to Groveland||330 miles (7-8 hours)|
|South Lake Tahoe to Groveland||150 miles (3 ½ hours)|
|Angels Camp to Groveland||35 miles (1 hour)|
|Hwy 120 Big Oak Flat entrance to Yosemite NP to Meeting Place||17 miles (30 minutes)|
If you’re arriving by car, parking is available at the La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery parking lot.
OARS cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage to vehicles or their contents.
For those that are flying, we recommend the Sacramento (SMF) airport, which is served by most major airlines. A variety of car rental companies are available at the airport. Oakland (OAK) and San Francisco (SFO) are alternative airports with competitive fares.
Shuttle options from the three-closest major airports are prohibitively expensive. You will find that weekly car rentals are less expensive than most other travel options, even though your car remains at La Casa Loma River/Tangled Hearts Bakery Store while you are on the river.
By Bus or Train
Greyhound and Amtrak do not offer service to the Groveland area.
After Your Trip
On the final day of your river adventure, you will be returned via shuttle to La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery. Generally, you’ll arrive back to your car by 4:00 – 6:00 PM.
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.)
- Rush Creek Lodge 209-379-2373
- Evergreen Lodge 209-379-2606
- Sugar Pine Ranch 209-962-7823
- Yosemite Westgate Lodge 209-962-5281
Yosemite National Park
- Yosemite Lodging 559-252-4848
- Yosemite Camping 877-444-6777
- Yosemite Nat’l Park Camping 800-436-PARK
Other Camping Options
- US Forest Service campsite information
- Groveland Ranger District 209-962-7825
The water on the Tuolumne River is released from hydroelectric facilities located upstream. These water releases are solely controlled by the city of San Francisco and their Hetch Hetchy Reservoir; whitewater rafting companies have no influence in the schedule. It is important for our passengers to understand that the water flow on the Tuolumne is directly related to the amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada, as well as demand for water and hydropower. On these trips, we often have to wait for the dam-released water to reach our campsite, causing a later start in the day.
The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip 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 travelers. 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—The sportiest of crafts we put on the water, 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, and teamwork begets success. A thrilling way to brave the rapids! Helmets required. (Four to seven paddlers)
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 horsepower. 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 guests)
Wine on the River: Our wine trips offer an elegant alternative to our regular departures, combining the appeal of the wilds with mouth-watering menus and award-winning wines. After each day of vigorous river rafting, enjoy delicious meals prepared by a gourmet chef and premium wines introduced by regional experts. Each wine is carefully chosen to complement the evening’s bill of fare. With such high levels of expertise and execution, these trips inevitably result in a great time.
Craft Beer Tasting on the River: Our Craft Beer Tasting trips combine mouth-watering menus prepared by an executive chef served alongside hand-selected micro brews. After each day of vigorous river rafting, enjoy gourmet meals and premium beer introduced by regional experts. The beer and wine are carefully chosen to complement the nightly menu.
After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Upon arrival, our first task is to unload the boats using a “bag-line” of crew and passengers to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night. On the first night in camp, a crew member will give a demonstration on setting up a tent, which you’ll see is quick and easy. The guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.
As dinner is being prepared by the guides, hors d’oeuvres will be served and you will have an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.
In the morning, the first wake-up call will let you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit and cold cereal are ready on the hors d’oeuvres table. You can fill your mug and grab a bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast. After breakfast is served, the entire camp will be broken down and packing will be completed. The gear will then be loaded onto the boats and we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.
The meals we serve are hearty and delicious, complete with fresh ingredients and a variety of foods. A typical morning on a multi-day trip might start with French toast, bacon, fruit, orange juice, and coffee or tea. Lunch might be 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 guides’ cooking skills truly shine—sizzling steaks or salmon, chicken enchiladas, and delicious pasta dishes are all part of their repertoire. Dinner generally includes a salad, and desserts are frequent. Hors d’oeuvres are a pleasant surprise before many meals.
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
When in camp, water and lemonade are always available and we do provide a limited supply of sodas, beer, and wine with dinner. You are welcome to bring your own favorite beverages, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, in non-glass containers. If you choose to bring additional drinks or alcoholic beverages, please let us know in advance. For your safety and the safety of others, alcoholic beverages are limited to camp.
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.)
Hiking / Side Creek Exploration
There are a few, shorter explorations to be made on foot from the river. These adventurous excursions generally require scrambling, rock-hopping, walking on uneven terrain and some sort of water crossing, so please remember to bring appropriate shoes. Often the shoes you wear for rafting will suffice for these side hikes. Since your feet will be getting wet, hiking boots are not the best choice. All hikes are optional. If you prefer, you are welcome to stay back and enjoy relaxing in camp.
The Tuolumne River has the most diverse fishing in the Sierra Nevada, and its headwaters host magnificent, hard-to-reach fisheries that produce trophy rainbow, brown, brook or golden trout. Our guides will be happy to explain proper catch-and-release fishing techniques if you are not already familiar with the rule. You will need to bring your own fishing gear and license. Please bring your rod in a hard protective case. We recommend collapsible poles for ease in packing and an assortment of dry flies. Early-season fly casters generally use large nymphs, wooly buggers and bead-headed prince nymphs.
You may buy your fishing license by calling (916) 928-6882, or online here. Fishing licenses are also widely available at nearby sporting goods stores. A one-day license currently costs $16.20/person. Stream trout season runs from April through mid-November. Fishing from bridges and docks is prohibited. (In case you are going to Yosemite before or after your trip, rainbow trout are catch-and-release-only in Yosemite Valley from Happy Isles to Foresta Bridge.)
The Portable Toilet
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 definitively not allowed in any of the side streams that feed into the river. If you plan to bring soap, we recommend using a liquid biodegradable soap such as Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’s, 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 spring and fall trips.
For Women Only
Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. We recommend you bring some sandwich-size Ziploc™ 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.
We provide one small, shared waterproof bag (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter) per raft to hold your camera and other items you might need during the day. While these bags are designed to be waterproof, you may wish to place your camera in a zip-lock 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 may need. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option.
During the peak of the season, there are often professional companies taking photos of each raft at some of the Tuolumne’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; visit them at http://www.rapidshooter.net/ after your river trip. 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.)
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.
We are not able to provide a power source for recharging devices. To keep cameras, phones, GPS and other devices working you may need spare batteries or portable power. Options include compact portable solar panels that can recharge devices directly, portable power banks that store power, or a combo unit that can be charged before the trip and recharged with a built-in solar panel.
Once you are on the river, there is limited communication with the “outside world.” Cell phone service is not available. Our guides carry satellite phones which are strictly used to call out in case of an emergency situation on the river. They can call out, but we cannot call them. Periodically, the trip leader will check in with our office. If you have someone that needs to contact you about an emergency at home, they should call our office (800-346-6277). If possible, we will relay the message to you. Keep in mind, it could be several days or longer before the message actually reaches you. For your family at home, you should define for them what you consider an emergency and provide instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your vacation.
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 standard cancellation terms & conditions apply should you choose to cancel due to environmental conditions resulting from a wildfire near to where our trip operates. Please review our Terms & Conditions section in this document, below. Furthermore, we recommend you consider investing in a comprehensive Travel Protection Plan that provides you the ability to “cancel for any reason” should you feel conditions from a nearby wildfire may result in you canceling your reservation.
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. We recommend the following website: http://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=groveland%2C+ca for weather in Groveland, CA.
Average Air and Water Temperatures (for the Groveland area)
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F||Notes|
|April||60-70||35-40||44-46||Extremely variable weather; more wildlife & wildflowers|
|May||70-75||40-44||45-48||Chance of spring showers—but usually beautiful, sunny days|
|June||80-85||46-50||48-50||High-water time; rare rain-clouds|
|July||88-92||52-56||50-54||Hot, sunny days; perfect for swimming|
|Aug||88-92||52-56||54-58||Driest month; ideal for sleeping out under the stars|
|Sept||85-89||45-49||58-60||Warm summer temperatures start to cool down|
Water Levels & Temperature
During our rafting season, 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 run-off 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 run-off usually occurs between mid-May and mid-June, but can vary widely from early May into July. 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.
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 floatation 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, especially on rivers with sandy beaches. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.
In camp— We require 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 a sarong or 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 for paddlers. After June 1st, wetsuits will be available by advance request only. 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 mosquitoes 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.
Suggested Packing List
Equipment and Personal Items:
☐ Sleeping bag, pad, sheet liner, small pillow, 5×7-foot tarp. Sleep kits including these items may be rented for $25. (For trips in early-June we suggest a synthetic-fill bag rated to 20 degrees Fahrenheit)
☐ 1-liter water bottle: durable and reusable
☐ 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®) “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
☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Sarong: useful for sun protection, evaporative cooling, changing clothes, etc.
☐ Small day pack, waist pack or hydration pack for side hikes
☐ Bathing wipes: pre-moistened disposable towels
☐ Small bags: stuff sacs, zip locks or similar for organizing items in your dry bag
☐ Large empty bag: laundry bag, pillow case or similar for putting clothes into after your trip
☐ 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 and receive FREE SHIPPING in the U.S. + 15% of your purchase helps provide under-resourced youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
Packing Your Gear
On the morning of day one, each person will be given two large waterproof bags (approximate sealed size: 25” tall x 13” diameter; 3318 cu in; 54.4 L). One bag will be for your clothing and personal items. The second bag will be for your sleeping gear (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet and pillow). These two bags will essentially be your “checked luggage” and will only be accessible in camp. Tents are stowed separately. Please note: If you rent a sleep kit from us, it will come pre-packed in one of the two waterproof bags. This pre-packed bag will already be loaded onto a raft and will not be available to you at the time you are issued your second waterproof bag.
We also provide one small, shared waterproof bag per raft for day use where you can keep items such as raingear, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, etc. (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter; 1081 cu in; 17.7 L). All bags are cylindrical in shape and pack from the top. Please pack light; river attire is very casual―comfort, convenience and boat space takes precedence over style. At the end of the trip, you will return to La Casa Loma with your packed waterproof bags. Here, you will be able to unpack your gear for your return trip home.
If you have extra luggage, it should be locked in your car or stored at your hotel.
We recommend 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 Tuolumne River Trust, a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting the Tuolumne River through education, restoration projects and the advocacy for a healthy watershed. One-hundred percent of these funds go directly to these environmental actions, and your contribution is tax-deductible. Visit www.tuolumne.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 Pam & George Wendt 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.
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Terms & Conditions
Reservations and Deposits
A $250/person deposit is required at the time of booking. Deposits may be made by check, money order or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Receipt of the initial deposit signifies acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency. Cancelling your trip will incur cancellation fees because holding spots for you means we are likely turning others away who would like to book the trip. Final payment is due 90 days prior to departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 80 days prior to the departure date will be cancelled without exception.
Cancellations and Refunds
Your deposit is fully refundable for 7 days after you book when you submit a deposit 7 days or more prior to the final payment due date.
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We do not make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including weather, wildfire, terrorism, civil unrest or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early.
Date of Cancellation Cancellation Fee
180 or more days prior to your trip $50/person
179 – 90 days prior to your trip $100/person
89 – 60 days prior to your trip $250/person, balance available as a limited-time trip credit
59 days or less prior to your trip Full Fare*
*If we are able to fill the trip and replace the cancelled passengers, the fee will be reduced to $100/person.
Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation e-mail for details.
If you transfer from one trip to another within the same season, there is a $25/person fee up until 90 days prior to departure. You may choose to make a one-time transfer of your payments to a credit account for use during the following season, which incurs a $50/person fee up until 90 days prior to departure. Transfers made after this time will be treated as cancellations.
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 offer the OARS Travel Protection Plan to help protect you, your travel investment and your belongings before and during your trip. Travel Protection can reimburse you for non-refundable payments if you should have to cancel your trip for a covered reason such as your illness or the illness of an immediate family member. For complete details go online to: https://www.oars.com/tpp
If you enrolled in a Trip Mate policy through OARS on or before December 9, 2018, the policy is still in place and will be administered by Trip Mate through the end date of your scheduled travel with OARS. All information provided in regards to the Trip Mate policy remains relevant. For a complete description of your Trip Mate policy, go online to: http://www.tripmate.com/wpF431Y or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan # F431Y).
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– 6 for gourmet, craft beer and wine trips), 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.
OARS trips occur in areas where unpredictable environmental conditions are to be expected. To moderate dangerous situations for our guests and guides, it is important that all travelers 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.