Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River

Area Status: Temporarily Closed
Rafter executing a rapid on the Tuolumne River Visitors rafting down the Tuolumne river surrounded by mountains.


Considered to be some of the best "All Around" whitewater in the nation, the Main Tuolumne offers 16-18 miles of Class 4-5 rapids. Side streams such as the Clavey River, Big Creek, and the North Fork of the Tuolumne River offers side hikes, fishing holes, and warm swimming pools during the summer months. 

Check out the history of the Tuolumne River and take an interactive ride down the Tuolumne River and learn how the rapids got their name. Thanks to our partner Tuolumne River Trust for sharing these links.  (Please note you are leaving the FS web page when you view these links.)

Main Tuolumne 

The Main Tuolumne is a challenging and enjoyable Class 4+, 18-mile whitewater run through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. This section has some demanding rapids spaced at close intervals. At above 4,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). The river becomes more powerful and recovery more difficult. The biggest rapid, the Clavey, can be walked around or portaged. Camping is available at several sites along the way. Reservoir release summer flows generally arrive at Merals Pool launch mid-morning and drop to less than 300cfs after noon. A three-day trip allows boaters to enjoy the canyon and its tributaries. River flow graphs can be found at http://dreamflows.com.

During spring runoff, flows above 5,000 cubic feet per second make the Main Tuolumne a class 5 experience. The takeout at Wards Ferry Bridge is difficult and dangerous at all times. Make sure you stay hydrated and be very careful carrying your boats up to the bridge.

Cherry Creek 

The 9-mile class 5+ Cherry Creek/Tuolumne run is one of the most challenging commercial runs in the world. Yet the nature of the rock in the riverbed allows expert boaters an exhilarating experience. It has 15 class 5 rapids. Two 5+ rapids (Flat Rock Falls and Lumsden Falls) are recommended portage. Generally, it is run below 2,000 CFS. Boaters who attempt this run are well-advised to go with experts that have run the river before. As with the Main T, a permit is required to run the river. Permits are available at www.recreation.gov 

Seperate permits are required from Cherry-Creek to Merals Pool and from Merals Pool to Wards Ferry Bridge.  


At a Glance

Current Conditions: Groveland Ranger District (HWY 120) Day use only. Wild & Scenic River flows range from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to over 12,500 cfs. For current flow information visit dreamflows.com or call 209-962-7825 during regular business hours.
Operational Hours: Temporarily Closed Due to Storm Damage with limited access for hiking only.
Rentals & Guides: Outfitter Guides under Special Use Permit to commercially operate on the Stanislaus National Forest(Fund-raising trips are considered commercial and sponsors should arrange for a trip with an existing permitted commercial guide service.)
Permit Info: Boating Permit Required – For more information visit: www.recreation.gov
Open Season: April 15 - November 15
Usage: Light-Medium
Best Season: June 1 - August 15
Closest Towns: Groveland, CA and Buckmeadows 
Water: None
Restroom: None
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Groveland Ranger District
24545 Highway 120
Groveland, California 95321

General Information

General Notes:

Described by river experts as one of the most challenging river runs in California, the main Tuolumne River is a scenic 18-mile journey. It passes through lands managed by the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Rafting on the Tuolumne River has evolved from a humble beginning. During the early 1970's, only a few hardy souls tried to float the river, but by 1975, an estimated 1,200 persons annually were making the trip. Forest Service officials soon realized the management of the Tuolumne River would have to change to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip, while at the same time protecting natural resources.

Whitewater Rafting Levels of Difficulty

Class 4: Rapids may require "must make" moves above dangerous hazards, scouting may be necessary. Risk to swimmers is moderate to high, water conditions may make self-rescue difficult.

Class 5: Rapids very violent or obstructed. Drops contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, demanding routes. Pools become shorter or nonexistent, demanding a high level of fitness. Eddies may be few, small, turbulent, and difficult to reach. At the high end of the scale, several of these factors may be combined. Scouting is recommended, but may be difficult. Swims are dangerous, and self-rescue is often grim, even for experts.


Directions to Merals Pool Launch from Groveland. 14.5 miles

From Groveland travel 7.5 miles east to Ferretti Road. Turn left (north) onto Ferretti Road. Travel 1 mile and turn right (east) onto Lumsden Road/Forest Route 1N01 off of Ferretti Road. Travel approximately 6 miles to the campground which is located on the left (north) side of the road.

Directions to Wards Ferry Bridge Take out from Groveland (9.7 miles)

From Groveland travel 1.7 miles to Big oak Flat. Turn right on Wards Ferry Road. Travel approximately 8 miles to the Wards Ferry Bridge.

Directions to Cherry Creek Launch from Groveland. 23.6 miles

From Groveland travel northeast on CA-120 for 13.9 miles. Turn left (north) onto Cherry Lake road (Forest RTE 1N07). Stay on Cherry Lake road for 8.6 miles. At the Tuolumne River bridge take a slight left to stay on Cherry Lake road for 1.2 miles. Turn left on forest route 1S23Y. 

Download the Tuolumne Wild & Scenic River Map (geospatial PDF, 7.61 MB)

Tuolumne Wild & Scenic River Map

iOS and Android device users: install the Avenza PDF Maps app (free) on devices with GPS to show your location on the map. More information on the app can be found at: http://www.pdf-maps.com.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Campground Camping

The following campgrounds are located within the Tuolumne River Caynon:

River and Stream Fishing

Contact California Department of Fish & Wildlife for current regulations: 559-243-4005, www.dfg.ca.gov

Day Hiking

The following trails are located within the Tuolumne River Canyon:

Boating - Non-Motorized

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Featured Events


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