We are in awe of the sheer volume of precipitation hitting the Sierra Nevada this year. Sitting from our office above the Tuolumne River canyon, we have watched storms form and move through the mountains of Yosemite virtually all winter. After 4 years of drought, latest measurements show Central Sierra snowpack at around 175% of normal for this time of year and California has been blessed with one of its wettest years on record. This will translate to consistent flows and extended rafting seasons on both the Tuolumne and Merced rivers.
Recent (March 30) snowpack measurements show that statewide, the snow-water content is 165 percent of the April 1 average, and the storms keep coming. At this time in 1995, snowpack was 180 percent; in 1983, it was an amazing 225 percent. Many factors including spring temperatures, capacity of upstream reservoirs, and additional precipitation that may arrive in late spring will have an effect on each river’s rafting conditions, and any forecasts at this point are purely educated guesses at how the season will unfold. That said, given our past experience (over 50 years), we are making the following predictions for Yosemite river rafting in 2017.
Main Tuolumne Rafting Outlook
2017 spring rafting trips on the Main Tuolumne have already begun. By mid-May when days start getting a little warmer, water levels will start ramping up and continue to rise thru mid-June or later depending on temperatures. Starting mid to late June flows should moderate a bit with excellent rafting conditions expected through peak season in July, August, and September. These consistent fine flows on the Main Tuolumne will make it the premier Sierra rafting trip in 2017.
Merced Rafting Outlook
2017 promises to provide an extraordinary season for rafting on the Merced river. Spring trips on the Merced began in early April and the wet hillsides are full of wildflowers. Flows are expected to climb and peak for several weeks sometime mid-May to mid-June. By July 4th flows will start moderating and the season is projected to extend into August!
Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne Outlook
We will have to wait for runoff to slow down a bit before we can start putting rafts on Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne trips. We expect to begin rafting this section of river around the end of July and will offer trips through Labor Day Weekend.