Updated April 21, 2019
Winter 2018-19 bought mega wet relief to the Yosemite region! We got hit with a series of storms that dumped tons of snow. Latest measurements show water content stored in the Central Sierra snowpack at around 165% of normal for this time of year. Thanks to these winter storms and high elevation snow pack plus planned water releases from reservoirs located upstream from our rafting sections, the Main Tuolumne and Merced Rivers will both have extremely robust rafting flows in 2019!
This video of our first trip of the season says it all – spring rafting at its best!
As skiers know, Sierra snow can take many shapes. It can be light and powdery or heavily saturated and icy. This is why just measuring snow depth gives something of an incomplete picture. To accurately measure the amount of liquid water stored in a given expanse of snow surveyors use tools to assess an area’s snow water equivalence. This measurement provides a good indicator as to what kind of whitewater flows can be expected on California Rivers for the upcoming spring and summer rafting season.
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. That said, knowing we are at 165% of normal allows us to make a pretty educated guess at how flows will play out on Yosemite’s rivers for the year ahead. Given our past experience (over 50 years), we are making the following predictions for Yosemite river rafting in 2019:
Main Tuolumne Rafting Outlook
2019 spring rafting trips on the Main Tuolumne have already begun and flows have been outstanding. By mid-May when days start getting a little warmer, water levels should start ramping up and continue to rise thru mid-June or later depending on temperatures. These spring and early summer trips will provide thrill seekers with some truly awesome Class V high water. Starting mid to late June flows should moderate a bit with ideal summer rafting conditions expected to continue through our busiest season in July, August, and early September. These consistent fine flows on the Main Tuolumne will make it the premier Sierra rafting trip in 2019.
Merced Rafting Outlook
2019 promises to provide an extraordinary season for rafting on the Merced river. Spring trips are currently in full swing. Guests are already enjoying some wild waves, rambuctious rapids, and hills full of wildflowers. Flows are expected to climb and peak for several weeks sometime in June. By mid July flows should start moderating and the season is projected to extend well into August! These late season trips are the perfect way to cool off during summer’s hottest months. Full-day and half-day Merced trips depart daily.
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. Until then, high water on the Main Tuolumne should provide more than enough excitement for advanced paddlers.
Mid-April thru September is the most popular season for rafting in California. The consistent fair weather is perfect for beach camping and paddling rapids. Visitors to Yosemite are at their peak, and many choose to avoid the crowds and experience a part of the region that few get to see. Flows like this don’t happen every year, 2019 will be one to remember. The Merced, Main Tuolumne, and Cherry Creek – Upper Tuolumne corridors are natural wonders offering what many consider to be the best whitewater experiences in the state. Join us for a single or multi-day rafting adventure on one of the rivers of Yosemite.