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Tumbling though the Sierra from its headwaters in Yosemite National Park, the Main Tuolumne has long been revered as California’s premier whitewater rafting experience. And for good reason: “The T” is a gem. Its steep gradient makes for superb long rapids such as Nemesis, The Squeeze, Gray’s Grindstone and the notorious Clavey Falls (with optional footpath). 18 miles of roadless isolation and limited use permits ensure a primitive wilderness experience. Exquisite side canyons cradle clear pools for swimming; short hikes reveal Gold Rush and Miwok Indian history and abundant wildlife.
Step up to the exciting thrills of Class IV+ whitewater! Participants should be in good physical condition and bring along an adventurous spirit. The river starts out with a series of Class IV rapids with many chutes, steep drops, holes, and reversals to keep us on our toes. Tight, technical, and steep describes rapids like Rock Garden, Sunderland’s Chute, and Ram’s Head, leading up to legendary Class V Clavey Falls! This dramatic staircase rapid takes us through two big drops and around a boat-eating hole – enough exciting, adrenaline rush adventure for anyone! The river continues on another 12+ miles through the pristine forest/canyon land and many more Class III, IV, and IV+ rapids before reaching our take out at Ward’s Ferry.
Access to the canyon is limited. For 18 miles the Main Tuolumne is untouched by roads with only a few remote trails along its route, adding to its wild and scenic wonder. The isolated Tuolumne canyon is home to abundant wildlife including bobcats and bald eagles. Although the river’s 18 miles can be paddled in a single day, most break the trip up into two days. Spending a night at one of the Tuolumne’s pristine camps is an experience to remember. Whitewater rafting on the Tuolumne is a truly unique way to explore the Yosemite region. The Main Tuolumne was declared a National Wild & Scenic River by Congress in 1984. Commercial rafting permits limit trip size to just 20 persons. From the moment we push off the boats from shore at Meral Pool guests enter a magical part of the Sierra Nevada that very few get to see.
One-day Main Tuolumne trips meet at 8am and run all 18 miles of river in a single day, stopping for lunch midway downstream. Rafters need to be adventurous, in good physical condition, and be prepared for a full day of paddling. Our day is long and full of fun from our meeting in the morning until we return to our cars around 6:00 PM.
Experience the thrill of great rapids with time to enjoy the serenity of a wilderness canyon. We meet early on the first morning of your trip at our meeting place on Highway 120 near Groveland, about 1 hour west of Yosemite Valley. The drive to our put-in takes us deep into the canyon down the rustic Lumsden Road. Here we meet our guides and boats, don wetsuits if needed for protection and comfort, stow our gear in waterproof dry bags in the oar boats, and begin our expedition. We raft the upper section, stop for lunch, scout and run Clavey Falls, and set up camp downstream.
Multi-day Tuolumne river rafting adventures include camping on fine sandy beaches. Overnight trips are an opportunity to refresh your spirit. Relax and explore while our guides prepare delicious riverside meals and dessert. Marvel at a starlit sky, then fall asleep to the sound of the river.
On the morning of day 2, breakfast is served. We usually have time for a hike before setting out on the day’s exciting Class IV+ rapids, stopping for lunch on the river bank. We take out at Ward’s Ferry in mid-afternoon and shuttle back to Colfax Spring and your cars by around 5:00 PM.
Three-day Main Tuolumne trips allow more time to relax, linger, and explore unique beauty of the Main Tuolumne and it’s side canyons. We’ll venture up the Clavey and the Tuolumne’s North Fork to enjoy some pristine swimming holes. Spending two nights in the canyon is the ultimate “reset” – a great way to share quality time with friends and family while we take care of the details.
MAIN TUOLUMNE RAFTING TRIPS
DIRECTIONS & MEETING TIME
Main Tuolumne rafting trips meet at Sierra Mac River Trips at Colfax Springs at 8:30 am (unless otherwise scheduled), 12.7 miles east of Groveland on Highway 120.
Directions to Main Tuolumne Rafting Trip Meeting Place
Sierra Mac River Trips at Colfax Spring • 27890 CA HWY 120, Groveland, CA 95321
The Tuolumne’s proximity to Yosemite and the San Francisco Bay Area make it easily accessible to California travelers. If coming from the west, after you pass Buck Meadows look for the Vista Point/Rim of the World overlook on your left, followed by Packard Canyon Road on your right. We are just beyond on the north (left) side of the road. If you are coming from the Yosemite area, we are about ½ mile beyond the Cherry Lake Road. Pay attention, our place comes up quickly! Driving time from the Bay Area is about 3 ½ hours; from Manteca, about 1 ½ hours; from Los Angeles, about 7 hours; and from Yosemite’s northwest entrance gate (Big Oak Flat), about 25 minutes. We can also arrange local pickups at the Pine Mountain Lake Airport for travelers arriving by private plane.
If you will not be available by phone before your trip, please phone our office within 48 hours of meeting time to reconfirm logistics. Please be on time! If you’re delayed, please phone our office at (209) 591-8027.
GETTING READY for Tuolumne Rafting Trips
By the meeting time, please be dressed in river attire and have your gear ready to be packed in our waterproof bags. Wet suits, if needed should be put on later at the river. Current local weather.
WHAT TO WEAR
FOR WARM WEATHER
Shorts and/or swimsuit • T-shirt • Tennis shoes (Sandals do not protect your feet!) • Ball cap • (with tie-on) • Passengers with extreme sun sensitivity may wish to wear lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
FOR COOLER WEATHER (APRIL & MAY)
Wool, silk or synthetic layer under wet suit • Wet suit (provided by Sierra Mac) • Wool or neoprene socks • Tennis shoes • Sunglasses (with tie-on) • Wool hat or ball cap • Rubber splash jacket (provided by SMRT)
For warmth, layers of polypropylene or wool with an unlined shell or parka are best. (SMRT provides a rubber splash jacket in cool weather.) Avoid wearing sweats or heavy pants on the raft: they’ll get wet and never dry out.
WHAT TO BRING
For overnight Tuolumne rafting trips, pack light and compactly. Each person will receive a 3.8 cubic foot dry bag for storing his or her belongings-about the size of a 30-gallon plastic trash bag.
CAMPING GEAR (rentals available)
Sleeping bag • Air or foam mattress • Tarp • Tent or tube tent (optional) • Personal Gear • Comfortable clothing • Nylon shell jacket • Underwear • Extra tennis shoes or sandals • Socks • Sweater and/or jacket • Towel • Toiletries, Kleenex, etc. • Flashlight (one for each person) • Flashlight batteries (packed separately) • Extra plastic bags Day Bag (Ziploc plastic) • Camera & film • Sun block • Lip ointment • Plastic water bottle or canteen
Beer, wine, soft drinks or favorite evening libations (no glass except wine; we’ll pack these for you) • Fishing license and gear (hard shell case) • Snorkel & face mask • Reading material • Journal & pen • Cards or games • In April and May bring a rain jacket and pants.
We recommend travel insurance to protect your travel investment. Coverage is available to protect yourself in the event of last-minute cancellation. For information and rates, please visit http://www.travelinsure.
For further information on any of our rafting trips, call Marty at 209.591.8027