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  • Writer's pictureEcho Adventure Cooperative Members

What's the Deal with Rafting in Yosemite this Year Anyways?

Hold on to your hats this year, folks, it's gonna be a wild ride down the Tuolumne and the Merced Rivers! As you may or may not know, the Sierra experienced unprecedented snow and rain this winter. This is GREAT NEWS if you like snowshoeing in May, rafting and fishing in August, waterfalls through July, and clean air all summer long! There is a downside, too; river rafting will be a bit tougher - the Tuolumne rising from a class IV to a class V river early in the season. We'll also have to be a bit more careful when hiking and playing near rivers and waterfalls.... Actually, our friend Tom McDonnell of Sierra Mac River Trips did a great job explaining the conditions for KTVU News last week! CLICK HERE to watch!

Tuolumne River Rafting

Normally, the Tuolumne River's extreme solitude and nonstop action make this one of the best rafting destinations in California for adventurous beginners and experienced rafters! Located between Groveland, CA and Yosemite National Park, there is usually 18 miles of continuous class III-IV rapids in the untouched wilderness of the Tuolumne River Canyon, fantastic! This year, or at least early in the year, the rapids will be harsher and colder, so be prepared for class IV-V rapids. You also want to bundle up and make sure that you know how to swim and take directions in the heat of the moment, you know, in case you get tossed.

All that being said, this is going to be an EPIC year and we're giving this experience 5 stars!

Merced River Rafting

Known for incredibly fun, free-flowing, roller-coaster adventure in a raft! With continuous rapids and paddle/oar combination rafts available, this 16 - 20-mile rafting trip is perfect for beginners and raftoholics alike! Usually the Merced is a class II- III that fizzles out in late June/early July, BUT this year we may get to play rafting until the end of August!!! WHAT!?!

There is no dam control on this stretch of river, so you are rafting what is melting! Exciting, but that does mean that in the early spring months, like now, the water level will rise and rapids will be III+ to IV with an age limit around 12-14 years old. However, as the season goes on, the river will become more accessible to younger folks.

Yosemite Valley Rafting

This chill-looking river flowing through Yosemite Valley is also the Merced River - right after it sloshes and tumbles and falls down Vernal and Nevada Falls. Right now, it is borderline terrifying, but in the late summer it will mellow out again and Curry Village will rent small rafts that you can navigate by yourself. In the late late fall, you may be able to take your paddle board down the river as well!

How to Book your Rafting Adventures

You won't be able to book your whitewater adventure through Echo Adventures this year. We want to make sure that you know exactly what you are getting into, so instead of answering questions and booking your trip, we'll refer you to the experts!

Who are the experts!?

Other River Activities

What if you decide not to go rafting this year, and decide to go fishing, hiking or swimming with your family and friends? Just remember that water conditions could be dangerous for several reasons, such as strong currents, sudden drops, and underwater obstacles. Here are some signs to look out for to determine if the water is dangerous:

  1. Look downstream, and don't play in the water if you see whitewater, waterfalls or rapids. We promise this is a really good rule of thumb - It doesn't matter how calm the water is right in front of you.

  2. Has there been heavy rainfall or melting snow? These can cause the water levels to rise quickly, making it dangerous to swim, raft, or wade in the water without a professional present.

  3. Don't play in the stream if there is fast-moving water. It can be very powerful and difficult to navigate, especially for inexperienced swimmers or boaters.

  4. If you see large logs, branches, or other debris floating in the water, it can signify strong currents or flooding, making the water dangerous. This debris can get stuck, creating a strainer. The water can pass through, but everything else can get stuck there, making it very dangerous for swimmers and rafters.

  5. Pay attention to any signs or warnings posted near the waterway - like the one above Nevada Falls! They are there to warn you of potential dangers or hazards, so please please please listen!

If you or someone else gets swept into the river, it's important to stay calm and try to stay afloat. Sometimes, even with a life vest on, it feels weird going through whitewater. You can't float to the top of the bubbles in whitewater so breathing is difficult. Try to relax, this will pass once you are out of the rapids.

Avoid hitting rocks or obstacles in the water by floating on your back with your legs facing downstream. This way, you can push off of any obstacles in your path with your feet and legs.

Lastly try to swim away from strainers and towards the shore or a calm areas in the bends of the river if possible.

Should I Wait Until Next Year?

That's an easy answer, NO! This is a once in a lifetime year, with incredible wild flowers, waterfalls, rafting and fly fishing! Why would you miss that!? Just don't be a dork and do dumb stuff. When in doubt, read the signs, respect the water and hire a guide!

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