Stanislaus National Forest

Tuolumne River

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.

The Forest Service has managed rafting on the Tuolumne River since 1975. Commercial outfitters operate within a permit system under which the number of trips and passengers are limited. In a further effort to protect the river resources and promote user safety, all non-commercial floaters were also required to obtain permits through the Stanislaus National Forest's Groveland Ranger District Office. This change occurred in 1982.

Total river management has been in focus since passage of the 1984 Wilderness Act, which designated 28 miles inside Forest Service boundaries as a Wild and Scenic River. Management will be in accordance with the river management plan that was completed by the Forest Service in 1986 and later revised in 1988. All floaters (kayakers and rafters) must have permits. Fund-raising trips are considered commercial and sponsors should arrange for a trip with an existing permitted commercial firm.

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.

Reservations for rafting permits can be obtained by writing or visiting the Groveland Ranger District Office (9 miles east of Groveland on Highway 120). You are welcome to leave names and addresses of trip members in case of emergency. Save time (and disappointment) by planning your trip in advance (weekdays are good trip times) and reserving your permit.

Advance reservations for weekend launches are limited to six trips per person per year. Remember to pick up your reserved permit at the Groveland Office before 10:00 a.m. the day of your launch. We must cancel unclaimed reserved permits and use that allocation for other rafters.

You will not need a permit if you are rafting between October 16 and April 30. However, rafters taking trips during the off-season are encouraged to call the Groveland office for the latest weather, stream flow and safety information.

A $15.00 fee is charged for reserving a rafting permit. For parties of 11 to 26 people, an additional charge of $2.00 per person applies. The non-refundable, non-transferable fee must be submitted with the permit application. Permits issued to walk-ins on a non-reserved basis will continue to be issued at no charge. When cancellations are received more than 14 days prior to the launch date, the applicant will be eligible for an alternate launch date at no extra cost.

If cancellations are received less than 14 days prior to the launch date, the reservation fee will be forfeited. Cancellations received less than 48 hours prior the launch date will be considered "no shows". "No shows" will forfeit any other reservations they might have for the remainder of the season.

Daily allocations do not apply for the Upper Tuolumne (Cherry Creek) and reservations will not be taken. Permits are required and can be picked up at the Groveland District Office on the way to the Cherry Powerhouse at no charge. Raft trip reservations for any given season will not be accepted before January 1 of that year.

The best time to float the Tuolumne River is usually May through September. Please call the Groveland Ranger District Office for river flow information before taking your trip. High flows in the spring can make trips risky, especially for the inexperienced rafter. River flows can also drop on weekends after spring runoff (when water is saved for power, irrigation and domestic use) postponing travel. Knowing whether rafting trips are possible before you arrive can save you time and disappointment. Also, plan weekday float trips whenever possible. Observations indicate rafters take fewer trips Monday through Thursday. Consequently, less congestion occurs at the launch site during the week. Weekday flows during late summer are higher than weekend flows, making a more enjoyable trip. For further information about the Tuolumne River permit system, and to comment on the program, write to:

Groveland Ranger District
ATTN: River Permits
24545 Highway 120
Groveland, CA 95321
209-962-6406 (TDD)


Many campsites are available to non-commercial rafters on a first-come, first-served basis. The following sites are reserved for commercial outfitters during odd-number years, although non-commercial rafters may use them if they aren't needed for commercial trips:

* Clavey (upstream/right)
* Powerhouse
* North Fork (downstream)

The following sites are reserved for commercial outfitters during even-number years:

* Clavey (upstream/left)
* Indian Creek
* North Fork (downstream)

You can check with commercial rafters at the launch site to see which campsites will not be used that day. To optimize use of prime campsites, the Clavey camps will be reserved only until 4:00 p.m., after which time those sites may be used by either non-commercial or commercial groups.

The Stanislaus National Forest offers whitewater boating on the Tuolumne River in cooperation with the following commercial outfitters. These outfitters operate within a permit system, under which the number of trips and passengers are limited. For more information, contact these companies directly.

* All Outdoors Whitewater Rafting
1250 Pine Street #103
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
(925) 932-8993
(800) 247-2387
* ARTA River Trips
24000 Casa Loma Road
Groveland, CA 95321
(209) 962-7873
(800) 323-2782
* O.A.R.S. Inc.
P.O. Box 67
Angels Camp, CA 95222
(209) 736-4677
(800) 346-6277
* Sierra Mac River Trips
P.O. Box 264
Groveland, CA 95321
(800) 457-2580
* Whitewater Voyages
5225 San Pablo Dam Road
El Sobrante, CA 94803
(510) 222-5994
(800) 488-7238
* Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions
P.O. Box 510
Columbia, CA 95310
(209) 532-6249
(800) 431-3636

The Stanislaus National Forest has one permitted company that offers vehicle and passenger shuttling for users of the Tuolumne River. For more information, please contact them directly.

* Tuolumne River Shuttles
P.O. Box 264
Groveland, CA 95321
(209) 559-4605


From Groveland travel approximately 10 miles to Ferretti Road, turn left; take Lumsden Road off of Ferretti Road, five miles of steep, narrow, dirt road; not advisable for trailers; subject to closure during inclement weather; or, from Groveland District Office head east on Highway 120 approximately 5 miles, turn left on Cherry Lake Road; follow Cherry Lake Road 5 miles to Early Intake