At any time, with any water level, the Merced River canyon, with its clear, sparkling water fresh from Sierra headwaters and steep slopes covered in wild flowers, is an inspiring place to be. The sierra snow pack melts unhindered by dams into the Merced river over Yosemite’s Nevada and Vernal falls. For the biggest waves and longest rapids plan a trip in April or May when the hillsides are ablaze with orange poppies, purple lupine and wild iris. June and July are a little less intense.
Two and three-day river trips allow time for exploring along the riverbanks. You might discover historic mining relics, take short hikes along tributary streams to water-slides or deep pools, and still have time to relax in the Tuolumne’s spacious river camps. White sandy beaches shaded by green willows and towering oaks provide the finest river-side camping.
The Merced River in Yosemite Valley (Stoneman Bridge to Sentinel Beach), and the South Fork of the Merced River in Wawona is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily to any type of non-motorized vessel or other flotation device.