Most people spend the whole time at Yosemite Valley and the surrounding area - missing out on wonderful nature and amazing adventures. If you have the adventurous spirit, leave the crowds behind and go on a whitewater rafting trip on the Tuolumne River.
The same river that passes through Tuolumne Meadow at a leisurely pace in the upper elevations turns into a whitewater monster in the lower slopes. The Tuolumne River rapids are considered class-4 which means that you need to have whitewater experience before navigating those rapids.
Like all good things at Yosemite you really have to plan ahead for this adventure. Do your research and talk to the outfitters about the best times and river conditions – then book your trip months ahead of time.
After doing a lot of research I decided to go on a 2-day rafting trip with Zephyr. I am very glad I went with them. It was a very well-planned trip with friendly and professional guides.
Zephyr is located in the city of Columbia but the meeting place is close to Groveland - on the edge of Yosemite.
From that location, you will ride a bus to the launch point. The bus ride could be rough at times with a narrow dirt road towards the end.
Once you arrive, you get your final instructions and gear and climb onto your assigned raft. A lot of the instruction was spent on how to climb on and get off the raft – especially in the middle of the river. It is not as easy as it seems.
I had never gone rafting before, so I was very reluctant to go. Zephyr guides assured me that I will be fine – and they were right. With their detailed instruction and patient guidance, we made it through the whole run without any incidents.
The weather was very warm on that day, but we stayed cool because of the sprays and splashes from the rapids. Every once in a while the guides would tell us it is safe to jump in – so we would tumble out of the raft and float for a while letting the current carry us until the next rapid.
Along with running the rapids, we had a few side adventures: We hiked to an abandoned Goldmine; Jumped from high rocks to the river; Camped out overnight; Swam in secret swimming holes with natural waterslides.
Throughout our adventure, we noticed that a professional photographer was trailing us on a Kayak and taking pictures of our experience. Sometimes he would race ahead and set up his equipment on a vantage point to catch our runs through the rapids.
The guides prepared very tasty meals throughout our stay and supplied all kinds of drinks. One of the most important rules they followed religiously was to tread lightly on the environment. We always left the wilderness the way we found it - wild, pristine, beautiful, and clean.
At the end of the run, our rafts were towed behind a speedboat and then lifted out of the water with a huge crane. Back at the meeting place we collected our belongings and purchased the professional photos of our adventure and said our goodbyes to the great guides.
There are other outfitters that offer similar experiences, but I highly recommend Zephyr.
Phone reservations 1-800-431-3636