Stanislaus River Rafting
Stanislaus River Rafting at a Glance
Price: $$
River Rapid Class: Goodwin Canyon: III-IV+; North Fork: IV-V
Trip in Miles: Goodwin Canyon: 5 miles; North Fork: 5 miles
Trip Duration: 1 day
Season: April-September
Raft Types: Paddle Raft, Oar Raft
River Sections: Goodwin Canyon, North Fork
Nearby Towns: Goodwin Canyon: Oakdale; North Fork: Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Gateway City: Arnold (CA)
Driving Times: Sacramento (CA): 2 to 2.5 hours; San Francisco (CA): 2.5 to 3 hours

"The Stanislaus is a 65-mile-long tributary of California’s San Joaquin River, sections of which are fed by spring snowmelt from central California’s Sierra Mountains. The two most popular sections for rafting are the wild North Fork and scenic Goodwin Canyon on the river’s lower stretch. River flows on both sections are technically controlled by upstream hydroelectric dams, although the best time to tackle the North Fork is between April and June when the spring snowmelt squeezes a flood of water through tight mountain canyons. When water flows subside in the summer, many of these narrow channels become less runnable.

Rafting trips down the North Fork usually put in at Sourgrass Crossing, near Dorrington, and take out five miles later at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, east of Arnold. The North Stan starts out with a bang, immediately hitting a steep Class IV called Beginner’s Luck. The action doesn’t let up, either, with a near-continuous series of Class III-IV+ cataracts down the challenging five-mile run. The scenery up here is high and wild, with things starting out at an altitude of just below 4,000 feet and dropping dramatically at an average of 77 feet per mile. Take some time, too, to enjoy the giant sequoias of Calaveras Big Trees State Park, where there’s some good hiking and biking trails. Two quiet campgrounds here also make for the ideal spot from which to launch your North Stan adventure.

The Stan’s Goodwin Canyon section makes for a good half- or full-day intermediate whitewater ride, within easy striking distance of San Francisco and Sacramento. The put-in is just below Goodwin Dam, about a mile downstream from the bigger Tulloch Reservoir. The rapids here come at you quickly, with possible portages required for the canyon’s two gnarlier Class IV’s and most likely around the big Class V Matterhorn. Take-out is at Knights Ferry, which has one private campground plus three campgrounds within the Stanislaus River Park system."

Published: 4 May 2011 | Last Updated: 25 Aug 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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