After a promising start with near record snowfall in the Sierra, California ended up with another dry winter.
But while many of California's rivers and streams are not carrying the volume of water they normally do at this time of year, there are still plenty of opportunities for white water rafting, river tubing, kayaking and family friendly float trips up and down the state.
White water rafting enthusiasts can still find river rafting tours on the South Fork of the American River and other locations in the Sierra Nevada Mountains because water agencies release water from upstream dams in ways that maximize whitewater rafting opportunities.
The same holds true for the Trinity River in the Trinity Alps in northwestern California.
Rafting companies know when water will be released from the dams and they schedule their whitewater rafting trips accordingly and some campgrounds also rent inner tubes, kayaks and other recreation equipment to accommodate river recreation enthusiasts.
Rafting is a terrific family activity, and what better way to start the summer camping season than with a rafting trip on one of California's scenic rivers. Campgrounds can often provide recommendations on outfitters that provide rafting tours in their immediate area.
CaliforniaWhitewater.com also lists nearly 40 companies that offer a wide variety of rafting tours in more than a dozen rivers across California. Popular freshwater river recreation areas across California include:
-- The South Fork of the American River: This is one of the most reliable whitewater rafting rivers in California, thanks to carefully timed releases of water from an upstream dam. Rafting trips have been taking place every day since March 30 but the schedule may be reduced to certain days of the week by summer as water levels decline. Popular campgrounds near the South Fork of the American River include Camp Lotus (www.CampLotus.com); Coloma Resort (www.colomaresort.com); and Ponderosa RV Resort & Campground (www.rvonthego.com/ca).
-- The Kaweah River: This Southern Sierra river is entirely dependent on snowmelt, so its flows will be strongest in April and May. Popular campgrounds near the Kaweah River include Kaweah Park Resort (www.kaweahparkresort.com); Sequoia RV Ranch (www.sequoiarvranch.com); and Three Rivers Hideaway (www.threerivershideaway.com).
-- The Merced River: One of the most popular rivers in California, the Merced River starts in Yosemite National Park and eventually merges with the San Joaquin River. The Merced River is entirely dependent on snowmelt, so its flows will be strongest in April and May. Popular campgrounds near the Merced River include the Yosemite West / Mariposa KOA in Midpines (www.koa.com).
-- The Russian River: This river runs year round, but is popular with river tubing enthusiasts during the summer months. Popular campgrounds include Casini Ranch Family Campground (www.casiniranch.com).
-- The Trinity River: Water flows on this river are controlled by a dam, which ensures that white water rafting opportunities will be available this summer. The most popular sections of the river are between Pigeon Point and Big Flat and include Class 3 whitewater. Popular campgrounds in the area include Del Loma RV Park and Campground (www.dellomarv.com).
-- The Truckee River: Truckee River Tours offers family friendly five-mile float trips along the Truckee River from Tahoe City to Alpine Meadows. "It's a very gentle float trip," said Richard Courcier, co-owner of Truckee River Tours, adding that flows along the Truckee River are controlled by a dam at Lake Tahoe. "We're hoping to start Memorial Day weekend or the first week of June and continue through Labor Day weekend," Courcier said. Popular campgrounds in the area include Coachland RV Park (www.coachlandrvpark.com)
California Whitewater Rafting and Kayaking
Californian rivers are well known for their striking canyons, beautiful water, and for the history that lines their banks. California, it is safe to say, wouldn't have come to be what it is today without its rivers. Beginning with the discovery of gold on the South Fork American River, the commerce and transport done on the American river from Sacramento to the Bay Area, and even to the hydroelectric dams built on these gems through the decades to meet growing demands for electricity. Much like walking the halls of the Smithsonian museum, floating down the rivers of California will show history in small and large scales. Witness the massive shifts in land formations as the rivers have carved the mountainsides, exposing gold- which, in turn, was a catalyst for even more mountainous shifts. These rivers are littered with gold rush era relics: old dredges and mining equipment populate the riverbank like historical markers along Highway 66. It is possible to appreciate the endurance those first miners had when they built their lives, whole towns, along the riverbanks. It is incredible that 160 years later, we can float along the same rivers, seeing the same sights, feeling the same water on your skin, the same sun on your face.
These rivers offer adventure for the novice upto and sometimes exceeding the experience of an expert. From lazy floating trips to Class V high adventure, there is a rafting trip for everyone.
CaliforniaWhitewater.com provides extensive information on exploring California's rivers. Here you can find information on each river, complete with maps, flows, local gear shops and comprehensive list of outfitters. There is information on the different types of trips and which rivers are best suited for the trip of your choice.
There is a Gear.101 section with explantions about paddles, pdfs, rafts, & general gear. And best of all, they have photos and video for every section of the rivers. Visit CaliforniaWhitewater.com for everything you need to know about rafting in California!