Flows spill out of the Hetch Hetchy managed by the O’Shaughnessy Dam. The difficulty lessens as the season wears on but it is a class IV river and in the first two miles of the trip, three rapids: Rock Garden, Nemesis and Rams Head will prove that this river is still very wild. Designated “Wild and Scenic” in 1984 from its origin in Yosemite National Park downstream more than 80 miles to Don Pedro Reservoir. All private floaters, kayakers and rafters are required to obtain permits, commercial outfitter trips and passengers are also limited.
Rafting this river means going over Clavey Falls; a series of three staircase drops (see video below) and other rapids that have equally intimidating names such as; Thread the Needle, Hell’s Kitchen, and Rock Garden. On multi day trips there is time to rest at a sandy beach and gather motivation to keep going the full 18 miles.
The rafting season for the Tuolumne River is April through October, but the early months of the season offer the most excitement. Contact Groveland Ranger District for permits and more information.
The most advanced whitewater in California: Class V
Cherry Creek’s nine mile run ends where the lower Tuolumne River run starts. Cherry Creek ranks in the most difficult whitewater in the entire United States. This river’s 15 Class V whitewater obstacles are powered by the canyon’s steepness—the river drops more than 100 vertical feet per mile (another section is even more steep) and there are many huge boulders. Trips are only later in the season, sometimes as early as June to as late as October, when things are calmer down stream. Even so this is a very hard all day commitment and only two outfitters run Cherry Creek.
Fishing can be accessed from Groveland on steep, narrow, dirt roads by way of Lumsden or Cherry Lake Road. The River is not highly developed for recreation due to rugged terrain and few access points. Lower Tuolumne is great for whitewater rafting.