2014 Pacific Coast Rafting Outlook Remains Positive Despite Drought
Smart Water Management Expected to Provide Reliable Rafting Flows on Popular Whitewater Runs Through Labor Day
ANGELS CAMP, CA, April 15, 2014 – O.A.R.S., the worldwide leader in whitewater rafting with river trips throughout the West, is gearing up for a solid rafting season on California and Oregon’s most popular whitewater rivers despite below average snowpack conditions throughout the region.
The positive 2014 California rafting outlook is the result of smart water management decisions by local utilities, and in some cases, essential agreements that guarantee reliable flows for recreational uses on dam-controlled rivers such as the Klamath and the American.
On the South Fork of the American River, based on licensing agreements with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), water releases for recreational use are assured. Reliable flows for boating are expected three days per week (Saturday through Monday) in April and May, followed by five days per week (Thursday through Monday) beginning Memorial Day weekend and lasting through Labor Day. Currently, boatable flows are also expected throughout the summer on the Middle Fork of the American River, which has ample water in upstream reservoirs for rafting on the majority of days between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The Hetch Hetchy Water and Power (HHWP) recreational flows update from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission suggests that the Tuolumne River watershed has a significantly higher percentage of normal water levels than the rest of the state and that outfitters should have good rafting conditions on the Tuolumne River at least through June 15th of this year. Earlier in the year, HHWP indicated the Tuolumne River would see releases of 1100 cubic feet per second seven days per week, less every other Wednesday, from June through August—ideal flows for rafting. However, with multiple agencies vying for precious water supplies, an agreement for summer flows is still pending, with final word expected on May 1st. At this point, O.A.R.S. remains fairly optimistic the Tuolumne will have good summer flows this year.
In the northern part of the state, the Klamath River, which is also dam-controlled, will rely on relatively healthy upstream reservoir levels this year and is expected to have a normal rafting season for the duration of the summer.
Similarly, rafting on southern Oregon’s Rogue River will be unaffected by below average snowpack this year due to reservoir levels in Lost Creek Lake and Applegate Lake, which are listed at, or near normal levels. Outfitters on the Rogue are counting on exceptionally good rafting conditions this season as a result of plentiful rain.
In 2013—another dry year in terms of snowpack averages—O.A.R.S. saw record-setting numbers on many of these dam-controlled rivers mainly due to the reliability of scheduled releases. This year, rafters can again count on good water as they begin to nail down their summer vacation plans.
Brief Window Available for Rafting on California’s Free-Flowing Rivers
Meanwhile, rafting on California’s free-flowing rivers is not out of the question. Whitewater trips on the Kern, and Merced Rivers, which are dependent on seasonal runoff, will be available to rafters for a brief window of opportunity this spring despite snowpack averages across the Sierra Nevada that are well below normal.
In southern California, seasonal flows for rafting on the Upper Kern and Forks of the Kern are anticipated through early June, while the Lower Kern season is expected to go through early July. Further north outside of Yosemite National Park, the Merced Rivercurrently has boatable flows, which are expected to persist at least through the later part of May.
Individuals or groups interested in rafting the Kern or Merced Rivers should look to schedule a trip soon to take advantage of the best whitewater.