Built and sold kayaks in the 60s. Designed the first self-bailing cataraft. Pioneered the Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne run in 1972, still considered the most challenging commercial river trip in US. Developed operational standards for guides and outfitters in California with the US Forest Service. Operated the first gourmet river expeditions with Chef Armando Dominguez. Founding board member of the Tuolumne River Trust and the Clavey River Coalition since 1982.
River Expertise: Professional guide since 1965
Guide Class: Class IV (V+ Retired)
Rivers Professionally Navigated: California—Cherry Creek, Main Tuolumne, Stanislaus Camp 9, Merced, Klamath, Eel; Elsewhere—Grand Canyon (Arizona), Rogue (Oregon), Columbia (Canada), Apurimac and Urubamba (Peru), Ruhr (Germany), Eyre (France)
Off-Season Employment: Owner/Manager, Sierra Mac River Trips
Home Base: Groveland, California
Every outdoorsman has his favorite spot - that place where nature serves up a powerful message that delicately whispers in his ear, mesmerizes his brain and fine tunes his senses. For Marty McDonnell it is the stretch of the Tuolumne River between its confluence with Cherry Creek and Ward’s Ferry Bridge. And the heart of this canyon, Clavey Falls, where the Clavey River runs into the Tuolumne, is where it takes McDonnell furthest from the hassles of the complex society we live in. “I get a very free-spirited feeling,” McDonnell says,. “It’s a very powerful place, as if Michelangelo took a chisel and carved out the canyon.”
McDonnell, owner of Sierra Mac River Trips in Sonora, California has spent many years navigating rapids, guiding people down challenging white water courses. He was in the forefront of technology, developing the first self-bailing cataraft in 1972 that advanced the ability to tackle Class V rivers and making the first rafting descent of the Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne run. His personal philosophy in operating river trips is to facilitate an action-wilderness experience that changes a person’s outlook on nature. While it’s fun shooting the exhilarating rapids, guests learn how river canyons are formed, the evolution of native species, human history and discover the art of fine dining at the river’s shoreline.
What McDonnell loves to do most, is take his three children on a three day trip down the Tuolumne River. Protecting the fragile environment plays a big part in his life as well. To that end he is a charter member of Friends of the River, serves on the Boards of the Tuolumne River Trust and Clavey River Preservation Coalition and is active with American Rivers, Sierra Club and other conservation organizations.