Tuolumne Wild & Scenic River

Area Status: Temporarily Closed
This area is Closed
Raft with one person in it crashing down a large rapid. Person in a raft on the Tuolumne River with mountains in background.

Considered to be some of best “All Around” whitewater in the nation, the Main Tuolumne offers 16-18 miles of Class 4-5 whitewater rapids. Side streams such as the Clavey River, Big Creek, and the North Fork of the Tuolumne offer 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.)

The Tuolumne can be rafted or kayaked in one day at summer flows of 1,100cfs; an overnight trip is a preferred choice for many. Reservoir released summer flows generally arrive at Merals Pool launch at about 9:30am, and drop to about 300cfs by noon. A three day trip allows boaters to enjoy canyon features. Permits are required from May 1 until September 30. 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. Flows can be found at http://dreamflows.com.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Groveland Ranger District (HWY 120) Open – Wild & Scenic River flows range from 500cfs to over 12,500cfs. For current flow information visit dreamflows.com or call 209-962-7825 during regular business hours.
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.)
All Outdoors Whitewater Rafting
(925) 932-8993
(800) 247-2387
(209) 736-4677
(800) 346-6277
American River Touring Association
(209) 962-7873
(800) 323-2782
Sierra Mac River Trips
(209) 962-0367
(800) 457-2580
Permit Info: River boating requires a permit during the boating season (May 1 thru October 15).

To reserve a permit, please fill out a Non-Commercial Boating Permit Application. The reservation window begins January 1st of each year for the following boating season. A $15.00 fee will be collected for the first 10 people, and $2.00 will be charged for each additional person on the trip. (Fees are invested in the maintenance of boat put-ins, trails along the river corridor, and camping sites).

Permitting process is subject to change in the coming year, and it is anticipated to be available thru the National Recreation Reservation Service (NRRS) @ www.recreation.gov.

We would like to thank our river visitors for using the rafting permit system. As a reminder to those that chose to enter without a permit, fines may be issued to parties in non-compliance with Forest regulations.
Restrictions: Permit Information:

Permit applications will be accepted after January 1 for the following season (May 1 through October 15).
  • The non-refundable fee must accompany each application.
  • Reservations will automatically be cancelled when checks are returned due to insufficient funds.
  • Reservations for weekend (Fridays and Saturdays) launches are limited to 6 reservations per person per year.
  • Cancellations received less than 48 hours prior to the launch date will be considered no shows.  No shows will forfeit any other reservations they might have for the remainder of the season.
  • Group size is limited to a maximum of 26 persons and 6 rafts.
  • Maximum length of stay for each trip is 2 nights and 3 days.
  • To reserve a permit, please fill out a non-commercial boating permit application.
Warning - During spring run-off, flows may be so great that boating should not be attempted on the Tuolumne River.  Flow information may be obtained from the Groveland Ranger District or by checking the website: www.dreamflows.com

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.

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.


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