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Tuolumne River Rafting, July 31 – Aug. 1, 2017

PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 12:34 am
by Tony Crocker
This was my 4th trip on this river, but it’s a particular great experience in a high water year like this one. Sierra rivers are typically run in the 1,500 cubic feet per second range, and many of them are constrained by upper and lower limits of when they are safe. The Tuolumne has an unusually wide range, can be run from under 1,000cfs to well over 10,000cfs. I took Adam and Andrew there July 3-4, 2005 at 6,200 - 7,200cfs: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1110

Of course this would be a new experience for Liz. It turned out to be 4,500cfs Monday and 3,600cfs Tuesday, an intermediate stage with some of the technical maneuvering of low water but also some of the big waves of high water. In low water the guides and 4-6 customers all use paddles and in high water like 2005 they mount a frame with the guide using oars in the middle of the raft with just two customers paddling in front. At 4,000 the company OARS chose to mount the oar frame in the back and have 5 of us paddling in the middle and front. was the same company Liz and I used for Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho 4 years ago and we recommend them highly.

Pictures are necessarily constrain by needing to be in a calm stretch of water where I don’t need to be paddling. The Tuolumne has these, but in high water the clam stretches are shorter. There were two rafts like ours and we often went first, so at least I could get pics of the other rafts in whitewater, though at some distance. Here are some from Monday:




We stopped at a 1905 powerhouse, built with great effort and fed by pipes 300 feet up coming from several drainages, but it was only in use a couple of years before they gave up gold mining this area.

In high water we got to jump off that wall into the river.

The two biggest rapids, Clavey Falls Monday and Gray’s Grindstone Tuesday, were scouted by the guides before we ran them. Gray’s was problematic because its wide open right side (looking downstream) usually run in low water has a big hole likely to flip rafts in high water. But in medium water the passages on the left are a bit tight, especially for the heavier gear rafts. We went first and Tanner guided us smoothly through the two far left slots in this pic.

We got the raft into an eddy so Tanner is at right with a throw bag in case anyone falls out.

The other paddle raft approaches the first drop.

The next raft was guided by Jim, who had his parent visiting from Tampa along for the ride in font with some gear in the back. The left side was too tight for that raft so he approaches the middle second drop here.

The middle looks wide but there are smooth rocks below and this heavier raft got stuck on them.

Jim came forward in the raft and tried to make it bounce off the rocks.

He eventually worked it free.

The final gear boat got though the middle without incident.

The heaviest flow with the big hole is behind the raft.

The quartz veins in the rocks like these are what attracted the miners.

Lunch Tuesday was at the confluence with the Tuolumne’s North Fork. The delays at Gray’s Grindstone prevented an extensive excursion upstream but there was a nearby pool of 70+ degree water (the main river was upper 50’s) to relax.

I ventured a bit upstream (in background here).

Then I came down near the pool for a water massage.

In low water there are rapids right up to the takeout at Ward’s Ferry. In high water Don Pedro Reservoir is full. It was over 100F by this time so in the calmer water I chose to get cool.

At takeout they use a crane to lift rafts and gear out of the river.

The Tuolumne definitely lived up to its billing. Not pictured because we were busy paddling were the roller coaster like wave trains, a smaller version of what you get in big rivers like the Zambezi and in the Grand Canyon.

Re: Tuolumne River Rafting, July 31 – Aug. 1, 2017

PostPosted: Thu Aug 03, 2017 9:31 am
by jamesdeluxe
While I can't share his passion for eclipses, I'll join Tony in his praise of rafting. Nice pix, which ain't easy when you're in choppy water.

I don't recognize him without the 1950s aviator glasses.