|MEETING PLACE:||La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery, 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 12:00 Noon to La Casa Loma River Store on day 6|
|RIVER RATING:||Class IV+ (Suitable for intermediate to advanced rafters)|
|RIVER MILES:||18 river miles, with 15 named rapids|
|TRIP LENGTH:||6 days / 5 nights|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 14 (16 at high water)|
|ACTIVITIES:||Rafting, Hiking and Exploring in Yosemite National Park|
|BOAT TYPE:||Paddle raft; oar raft; paddle raft with oar assist|
This exciting rafting and hiking expedition combines the thrills of the Tuolumne River with the awe-inspiring beauty of Yosemite Valley. You will start on the Tuolumne River, an action-packed Class III-IV+ rafting experience regarded as some of the most exciting whitewater California has to offer. The spectacular, isolated canyon is filled with intricate boulder gardens, rushing cascades, churning holes and glassy pools throughout the river.
After a thrilling two days of rafting, we will begin our hiking experience in the glacier-carved Yosemite National Park. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is surrounded by dramatic mountains and filled with lovely meadows, giant sequoias, aspen groves and jaw-dropping waterfalls. We will hike and picnic under the shadows of Half Dome and El Capitan, two of the park’s most famous natural monoliths. Later, we will explore the less-crowded Tuolumne Meadows. The celebrated playground of John Muir and Ansel Adams is ours to experience fully.
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. After you park your car, the trip leader will give you a waterproof bag in which to pack your belongings. We will then take a steep shuttle ride to the river via Lumsden Road—a fitting introduction to a trip filled with big descents! The anticipation builds at the put-in, where you will meet the rest of the OARS crew and listen to a guide’s orientation and safety talk presentation.
The Tuolumne is nearly consistent whitewater, with three of the most exciting rapids in the first two miles: Rock Garden, Nemesis, and Ram’s Head. After lunch, we’ll encounter the ultimate thrill: Clavey Falls. This Class IV+ rapid features a series of staircase drops which deliver heart-pounding, unabashed excitement.
We make our riverside camp in mid- to late-afternoon, depending on the trip. 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 before drifting off to sleep in your cozy sleeping bag.
The excitement continues with exciting Class III-IV rapids such as Grey’s Grindstone, Thread the Needle, and Hell’s Kitchen. Between the rapids, enjoy a refreshing swim in the calm stretches of cool water. When we reach our take-out at Ward’s Ferry, an OARS shuttle will take us past the La Casa Loma River Store, where your car is parked, and then we will head to the charming Rush Creek Lodge. The lodge provides an opportunity for a hot shower before a hearty dinner at the on-site restaurant. Later in the evening, we might raise a glass in the Tuolumne’s honor at the Lodge’s tavern.
After a delicious hot breakfast, we will meet our Park naturalists/guides then travel via shuttle into Yosemite National Park. After a picnic lunch, we visit Glacier Point vista and take an easy hike to the summit of Sentinel Dome. This hike offers breathtaking panoramic views of Half Dome and Yosemite’s high country mountain range. We will also hike to Taft Point, which offers overhead views of Yosemite Valley including El Capitan and Yosemite Falls, before returning (via shuttle) to the lovely Rush Creek Lodge. Here, we can relax and enjoy dinner before settling into our comfortable cabins for the night.
In the morning, we leave the Lodge and head towards Tuolumne Meadows to explore the striking high country of Yosemite National Park. We will choose between a series of hikes, including a summit hike to Mt. Hoffman or a trek along the trails near Lake May. Depending on the size of the group and individual interests, we may be able to split up for separate hikes. In the evening, we will follow the scenic Tioga Road to the quaint town of Lee Vining, where we will check into Murphey’s Motel, enjoy a refreshing shower, and eat dinner at a local restaurant.
We will eat breakfast in Lee Vining and return to Tuolumne Meadows. Our destination is the trailhead of the Cloud’s Rest hike, a 15-mile roundtrip hike to a breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley. Our guides will provide consistent support as we hike the narrow granite ridge through the series of switch-backs and approach the summit of Cloud’s Rest. At the top of one of the highest points of the park, we are rewarded with a stunning 360° vista of Yosemite National Park, including famous views of Half Dome and the valley floor. (This physically-challenging finale climbs well over 2,500 vertical feet, and isn’t ideal for anyone with a fear of heights.) Depending on your level of fitness, we are able to offer more moderate hiking alternatives, such as an eight-mile round-trip hike to view the dramatic, glacier-carved peaks surrounding Cathedral Lakes. After another exciting day on the trail, we return to Murphey’s Motel in the charismatic town of Lee Vining.
After breakfast, we return you to La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery and bid you a fond farewell. You will be returned to your vehicle around 12 noon.
Included in Your Trip Cost
- Skilled professional guides, along with interpretive hiking naturalists in Yosemite
- Delicious meals from lunch on day one through breakfast on day six
- One night catered camping on the river
- Two nights lodging at Rush Creek Lodge
- Two nights lodging in a quaint motel in Lee Vining
- Two-person tents on a shared basis while on the river
- Sleep kit, including a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet, pillow, and pillow case.
- 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
- One waterproof bag to protect your personal gear while on the river (approximate sealed size: 13” diameter x 25” tall)
- One small, shared waterproof bag per raft for your camera and other small items you’ll want during the day (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter)
- Camp chairs
- Eating utensils, cups and plates
- All transfers from the La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery to the river, Yosemite National Park, 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 and from the La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery near Groveland
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- River Access Fees
- Single Supplement of $535 per person
- Insurance of any kind, including travel insurance
- Alcohol (except for limited amounts of wine and beer provided at camp on the Tuolumne River trip)
- Items of a personal nature (an equipment list will be provided)
TRIP PREPARATION CHECK LIST
☐ Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: Help to protect yourself, your belongings, and your vacation with the purchase of a short-term Travel Protection Plan. A Travel Protection Plan can help cover your non-refundable payments should you have to cancel your trip due to a covered illness or injury. Because we begin working to prepare for your trip upon receipt of your deposit, and may be turning other prospective guests away while holding space for you, there are cancellation fees that will apply regardless of why or when you might need to cancel. The cost for the optional Travel Protection is listed on your trip invoice. All Plan Benefits are administered by Trip Mate, Inc. (in CA & UT, dba Trip Mate Insurance Agency). For a complete description of Trip Mate’s Plan online go to: http://www.tripmate.com/wpF431Yor call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan # F431Y). Please Note: Purchase this Plan within 14 days of the date we receive your initial deposit and the exclusion for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions will be waived, provided you are not disabled from travel at the time the plan is purchased.
☐ Trip Forms (online): Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation e-mail for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving 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 60 days prior to your trip (refer to your invoice for final payment date). Please let us know if you would like us to automatically charge your credit card on file when final payment is due.
Meeting Place & Time
Our meeting place 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). The meeting time is at 8:30 AM. Click here for a Google map.
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 one waterproof bag, into which you should pack your belongings. Your sleep kit and tent will already be packed into a separate waterproof bag and loaded onto one of the rafts. 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.
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 Rd 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 Rd. (Also, 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 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 adventure, you will be returned to your car via shuttle to La Casa Loma River Store/Tangled Hearts Bakery . You will arrive at approximately 12 noon. (After the river trip portion of your itinerary, we will pass by your parked vehicle. If you are planning to continue to another destination directly from Lee Vining, please make arrangements with your Adventure Consultant to caravan with our shuttle vehicle.)
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
- Murphey’s Hotel 800-334-6316
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. Please note that 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:
Oar Raft—The OARS flagship. The oar rafts carry the bulk of the gear on most of our multi-day adventures. Your guide pilots with long oars from a center-mounted aluminum frame. Ample deck space allows for lounging in calm stretches, while the sturdy weight and width of the boat gives your guide confidence to hit the big waves head-on. (Two to four passengers.)
Paddle Raft—The sportiest of crafts we put on the water, everybody handles a paddle while the guide gives directions and steers 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)
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)
Photography: Join an acclaimed photographer for a special workshop. Emphasis is placed on being in the right place at the right time to capture the “perfect light.” Whether you are a novice or have years of experience, you will benefit from our professional photographers’ tips and advice. The majority of instruction will occur during the hiking portion of this trip.
After an 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. A crew member will demonstrate how to set up a tent, which you will see is quick and easy. The guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured. As dinner is being cooked 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 coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit and cold cereal are ready. You can fill your mug and grab a light bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare a full, hot breakfast. After breakfast is served, the entire camp will be broken down and packed. We will then load the gear onto the boats and head downstream.
After completing the river portion of this adventure, we will stay the next two nights at the lovely Rush Creek Lodge. Our final two nights will be spent just outside the park at a quaint hotel in the town of Lee Vining.
The meals we serve on the river are hearty and delicious, comprised of fresh ingredients and a variety of foods. A typical morning might start with French toast, bacon, fruit, orange juice and coffee or tea. Lunch offerings could include a delicious spread of cold cuts and cheeses with several types of bread, or pitas stuffed with veggies and hummus. There are always cookies and a cooling drink to top it off. At dinner, our guides truly shine as they prepare sizzling steaks or salmon, chicken enchiladas or delicious pasta dishes. Dinner generally includes a salad; desserts are frequent. Hors d’oeuvres are usually served before dinner.
Once we are off the river and in Yosemite Valley, our guides will set up similar, hiker-friendly breakfast and lunch options at nearby picnic areas. Dinners will be enjoyed in local restaurants.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we should consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs. However, there may be a supplemental menu fee ranging from $5-25 per person per day, to cover any increase in our costs.
Beyond our standard menu, we can provide options for vegetarian, vegan and many allergy-restricted diets without applying a fee. However, we cannot always provide the same diversity or sophistication for restricted diets as we do for our regular menu. Similarly, certain allergen-free snack foods are difficult or impossible to source in our locations, so feel free to bring your own favorite snacks to supplement our provisions. Please let your Adventure Consultant know if you intend to do so.
We cannot guarantee that cross-contamination from allergens will not occur during meal prep, and reserve the right to refuse service to anyone as it relates to safety, including the potential for a medical emergency caused by a severe food allergy. Also, due to the constraints of cooking for a large group in a wilderness setting, availability of ingredients or specialty items in remote locations, and limited packing space, we are unable to cater to dietary preferences (likes or dislikes).
Beverages / Alcohol
We provide plenty of water and lemonade. While on the river, we provide two sodas per person per day, along with a limited supply of beer and wine at dinner. You are welcome to bring your own beverages, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, in non-glass containers. If you choose to bring additional beverages, please let us know in advance. For your safety and the safety of others, alcoholic beverages are limited to evening enjoyment.
We are obligated to adhere to the regulations established by the managing agency with jurisdiction over the area in which our trip operates. Use of marijuana on federal lands, whether it be medicinal or recreational, is illegal and therefore we ask that you refrain from bringing it with you on your OARS trip.
We carry sufficient drinking water with us to provide for your needs throughout the trip. Water jugs for refilling personal water bottles are accessible in camp, at lunch time and before hikes. In some cases, we will re-supply water jugs with water filtered through a purification system we provide. (No iodine is used in the purification process.)
Hiking / Side Creek Exploration
There are a few short 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. The shoes you wear for rafting will often 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.
Once we reach Yosemite, our hiking opportunities are expanded dramatically! Our days in the Park are arranged around a diverse selection of hikes that range from easy, relatively flat strolls to a rigorous all-day trek to the top of Cloud’s Rest. Although our Yosemite and Tuolumne Hiker trip is only moderately strenuous overall, the hiking portion of this trip is not for the faint of heart, as it includes the option of a 15-mile (round trip) summit hike to Cloud’s Rest. Previous hiking experience is advised, and the trip’s finale is not recommended for people who have a fear of heights or medical conditions that restrict them from carrying a daypack. Even though this trip is escorted by experienced hiking guides and naturalists, we recommend participants take time to get into good physical condition before the trip. It will heighten your enjoyment of all that Yosemite has to offer.
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 $15.69/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.
Evergreen Lodge and the Lee Vining hotel both feature private baths.
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.
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 bring their smartphone on the river portion of this trip, even though there is no cell service. Water damage to smartphones and other electronic devices is always a possibility, 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.
*The use of drones is prohibited within Yosemite National Park.
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 we are off the river, charging your camera batteries can be done in your hotel room.
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 what you consider an emergency and provide them with instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your vacation.
There is intermittent cell phone service in Yosemite National Park. Most carriers have good coverage in the Valley, but cell phone service is very unreliable in the high country around Tuolumne Meadows.
Fire activity frequently impacts the air quality on our trips, and occasionally wildfires may be present in the immediate vicinity of where we’re traveling. Smoke impacts are more likely in the latter-half of the summer season, so those with asthma or other respiratory conditions may wish to steer clear of this time frame. In general, we will not cancel a trip on account of smoky conditions, except in cases of clear danger to life or property. Necessary changes to logistics and/or destination may occur with very short notice as fire conditions are constantly changing. We will do our best to keep you apprised of excessively smoky conditions that can be foreseen for your upcoming trip, but we also encourage you to stay informed about local fire activity: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
Our guides do not carry firearms on our trips, and in most cases are prohibited from doing so by the managing agency. As a matter of preference, we ask all our guests to kindly leave your own firearms at home or in your vehicle.
Weather & Water Conditions
You should check the weather one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast. We recommend the website www.wunderground.com for weather in Groveland and Yosemite Valley, CA.
Average Air and Water Temperatures (for the Groveland area)
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F||Notes|
|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, while on the river— 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.
On the trail—Begin with sunscreen, shorts or long pants (convertible pants are great), and a long-sleeved shirt. Depending on the time of year and weather, additional layers of long underwear, socks, rain pants and rain jacket can also be worn. It can be quite cool in the morning, and as the day warms up layers can be taken off and stored in your day pack.
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 long underwear is the perfect base layer under long pants and a fleece sweater. At the higher elevations of Yosemite, a dry set of synthetic or merino wool long underwear is the perfect base layer under long pants and a fleece sweater.
During the day, while on the river— 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.
On the trail—For daily wear on the trail, you will want a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots with good support and soles. Wearing good socks, as well as broken-in shoes with sturdy ankle-support, will help to prevent blisters and rolled ankles.
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 caps are also useful since they fit under helmets, which are required attire when paddling our whitewater rivers.
In camp—When the weather is cool or cold, you’ll want a beanie-style hat to wear in camp. Warm hats are the perfect remedy for bed-head as you rise from your sleeping bag to secure your morning cup of coffee or tea, or for retaining warmth in the evening hours after the sun sets.
Hot Weather Trips
During summer months, conditions on the river may be hot and sunny. These trips require less gear than spring or fall trips, but thoughtful packing is still required. Protection from the sun and heat will be critical to your enjoyment and health while on the river and during side hikes. To protect yourself from the sun’s rays, consider bringing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
A good way to keep cool is with long-sleeved cotton shirts. Old collared dress shirts work well. They can be soaked in the water and worn in the raft or carried on a hike for later use. This method of evaporative cooling is very effective. Bandanas are another useful item that can be used in this manner.
Camp-wear should be made of cotton and be loose-fitting. A combination of shorts/skirt and a lightweight top is ideal for staying cool on hot afternoons.
To Avoid Being Cold
Synthetic or merino wool long underwear is a must-have on river trips. It can be worn under shorts, rain gear, T-shirts, etc., then stripped off when the chill of the morning has worn off. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet (which can happen easily), dries quickly, and it’s compact enough to be stuffed into your small waterproof bag or daypack after you take it off. It can be layered under your waterproof rain jacket and pants. In cooler weather, a rain jacket and pants can work better than a wetsuit. This is because the jacket and pants can be put on when it’s cold or when you’re going through whitewater then easily taken off when the sun comes out and it’s hot. On early-season and high-water trips, wetsuits will be provided 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.
Your tent and sleep kit is included in the cost of your trip. Our tents sleep two adults comfortably. If you are traveling alone, we will try to match you with another solo-traveler of the same gender; if you would like to guarantee privacy, the single tent supplement costs $30. Your sleep kit is cozy and well-equipped, including a sleeping bag, pad, sheet liner, small pillow, and 5×7-foot tarp. 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. If you plan to bring your own tent or sleep kit, please let your Adventure Consultant know so we can avoid packing unnecessary gear.
Suggested Packing List
Equipment and Personal Items:
☐ Day pack/Hydration pack: large enough to carry water, lunch, camera, a warm layer and rain gear for our hiking in Yosemite (750-2000 cubic inches)
☐ Two 1-liter water bottles: durable and reusable
☐ Locking carabiner (for clipping a water bottle or personal dry bag into a raft)
☐ Headlamp or flashlight (consider bringing extra batteries)
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap (consider bringing a spare)
☐ Small, quick-drying towel
☐ Toiletries, including soap and shampoo (preferably biodegradable)
☐ Sunscreen and lip protection: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher (aerosol sprays not recommended)
☐ Moisturizing lotion or cream
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Personal first aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, moleskin, eye drops, etc.)
☐ Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts
☐ Cash for gratuities as well as goodies at various shops in Yosemite
☐ River shoes or sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco®) “Aqua socks” strongly discouraged
☐ Hiking boots or shoes with good tread and comfortably worn-in to prevent blisters
☐ Hiking socks: mid-weight
☐ Long-sleeved shirt and pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection (old dress shirts work well)
☐ Long pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection
☐ Shade hat or visor with securing strap – flexible enough to wear underneath your helmet
☐ Rain jacket & pants: waterproof (not water resistant). A hooded jacket with secure closures is recommended.
☐ Swimsuit; a two-piece is recommended for women for changing and using the restroom. Tankinis are a great option.
☐ Shorts: 1-2 pair
☐ T-shirts/tops: 1-2
☐ Synthetic or merino wool long underwear: 1 set top & bottom (light-, mid- or expedition-weight depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Jacket: fleece or down/synthetic fill puffy (depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Camp clothes: comfortable and appropriate for season. Cotton recommended for hot weather trips
Additional Essentials for early season trips (June):
☐ Wetsuit booties and/or neoprene, wool or synthetic socks (for wearing inside your river shoes)
☐ Additional fleece top & bottom
☐ Warm hat and gloves: synthetic or wool
☐ Extra set of synthetic or merino wool long underwear, top and bottom
☐ Neoprene paddling gloves
☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Sarong: useful for sun protection/changing clothes
☐ Bathing wipes: pre-moistened disposable towels
☐ Plastic bags: for separating dirty clothes from clean
☐ Ear plugs
☐ Splash jacket and pants
☐ Lightweight cord and clothespins for drying clothes
☐ Sketchbook, notebook and pen, paperback book
☐ Female Urinary Device (for women only)
Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore and receive FREE SHIPPING in the U.S. + 15% of your purchase helps provide disadvantaged 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/Tangled Hearts Bakery 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 that you leave your valuables at home. We recommend leaving personal items in your car while you are rafting, including wallets, purses and cell phones. We will retrieve these items as we head into Yosemite.
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 OARS Foundation. This organization is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the express goal of providing opportunities for young people to experience the magic of the outdoors. Visit https://www.oars.com/oars-foundation/to learn more about how a tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
Watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video
Shop for the latest in top-quality gear for your trip
OARS practices Leave No Trace outdoor ethics
Watch our “How To Pack For A River Trip” video
Additional information about Yosemite
Terms & Conditions
Reservations and Deposits
A $250/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. The balance is due 60 days prior to departure.
Cancellations and Refunds
If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible. The cancellation fee after you’ve made your deposit can range up to the entire trip cost, based upon the number of days prior to your trip that we receive your cancellation notice. We regret we cannot make exceptions for personal emergencies. For this reason, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan (see Travel Protection).
Cancellations 60 days or more prior to your trip earn a full refund less a $100/person fee. Cancellations 59 days or less prior to your trip are not refundable.
If you transfer from one trip to another within the same season, there is a $50/person charge up until 60 days before the trip. Transfers made after this time will be treated as cancellations.
If you are traveling as part of a charter group please note that deposit/cancellation policies differ from those listed above.
Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying an OARS trip. People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.
For those unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we offer an optional Travel Protection Plan from Trip Mate, Inc. (in CA & UT, dba Trip Mate Insurance Agency) that can help protect you, your travel investment and your belongings. Should you have to cancel your trip due to illness or injury – your own or that of an immediate family member – non-refundable payments may be covered by a travel protection plan (see Cancellations and Refunds). For a complete description of Trip Mate’s Plan online go to: www.tripmate.com/wpF431Y or call Trip Mate at 800-888-7292 (reference Plan #F431Y). Please Note: Purchase this Plan within 14 days of the date we receive your initial deposit and the exclusion for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions will be waived, provided you are not disabled from travel at the time the plan is purchased.
Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release form before the trip, acknowledging awareness that there are inherent risks associated with the trip. Due to the nature of the activities, a condition of your participation is that you will sign this form and return it to our office before the trip begins. Anyone who refuses to sign the form will not be allowed to participate, and consistent with OARS cancellation policy, there will be no refund of the trip fees at that time.
Responsibility – An Important Notice
O.A.R.S. West, Inc. and cooperating agencies act only in the capacity of agent for the participants in all matters relating to transportation and/or all other related travel services, and assume no responsibility however caused for injury, loss or damage to person or property in connection with any service, including but not limited to that resulting directly or indirectly from acts of God, detention, annoyance, delays and expenses arising from quarantine, strikes, theft, pilferage, force majeure, failure of any means of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, civil disturbances, government restrictions or regulations, and discrepancies or change in transit over which it has no control. Reasonable changes in itinerary may be made where deemed advisable for the comfort and well-being of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 4 guests), and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts 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.