The storm systems that have been impacting the Sierra continue to bring record-breaking precipitation, with some areas seeing as much as 14 feet of snow in the last 2 weeks. Yosemite issued a mandatory evacuation on the 7th, the Merced River in Yosemite Valley reached flood stage, above ten feet on the gauge at Pohono Bridge, Sunday afternoon and the river peaked at 12.7 feet early on Monday. The Tuolumne peaked at 30,000 cfs at its confluence with the Clavey on January 8. This is over 10x the normal flow we experience on our rafting trips during the spring and summer months. Luckily, no major flooding occurred and the Park was reopened next day to visitors.
What a spectacle! Both the Merced and Tuolumne were swollen to winter storm water levels not seen in years. The sounds, power, and extreme wildness of these rivers at such extreme water levels is a force to behold. Small side creeks were pumping at full capacity. Many of the regular rapids were buried, and especially large boulders in the riverbed created immense waves and holes seen only at high water. The downpour couldn’t have come at a better time, California is entering a fifth year of drought. The rain will help to replenish reservoirs that have been under capacity and help to replenish a diminished aquifer. I guess the rain dance our guides have been practicing in the warehouse actually worked!
At higher elevations the snowpack has increased dramatically, trapping an ice cap that will melt gradually as weather warms to create perfect conditions for spring and summer rafting on our Merced, Tuolumne, and Cherry Creek/Upper Tuolumne rafting trips. This is going to be an incredible year to experience these rivers. Don’t miss it.