California Whitewater Rafting Trips near San Francisco and Lake Tahoe
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These California Rafting Frequently Asked Questions may help you feel safe, knowledgeable, and excited about your upcoming California Rafting Trip with Mariah Wilderness Expeditions. If you have other questions, please feel free to call us at 1-800-462-7424.


  • Why Choose Mariah Wilderness Expeditions?

    Over 34 years of experience, professional guides, healthful food, excellent discounts, one of the best campgrounds on the river, tent-cabins, outstanding safety record, large number of repeat guests; choose Mariah Wilderness Expeditions.
  • Who can go on a whitewater rafting trip

    Almost everyone, from the young age of 7 years old to 100. As Ratty, the kindly rat in “Wind and the Willows”, written by Kenneth Grahame said..” I enjoy nothing more than messing about in boats.” And that is just what most of us “river rats” do.

    If you are a family with youngsters as young as 7 years old then you can enjoy a wide variety of easy – low intermediate level river trips, where the river currents meander around boulders, through woods where birds and fish can often be seen, such as a variety of trips on the South Fork of the American River. Or, if you are an adrenaline junkie, then Cherry Creek, the Middle Fork of the American River, and the Tuolumne River may be the adventure for you. So, you can be just about any age as long as you are in reasonably good health.

    The ability to swim is required on Cherry Creek (you even have to take a real swim test at the put-in), expected on the Tuolumne, highly recommended on the Merced, and recommended on the Middle Fork of the American River. The ability to swim is not required on the South Fork of the American River.

    The maximum weight limit on the South Fork is 300 lbs; maximum weight limit on the Middle Fork and North Fork is 285 lbs. Maximum TORSO size on either of the rivers is 58″. The TORSO is defined as the area between the chest and the abdomen. The abdome is referred to as the belly, stomach, tummy, midriff. If the measurements seem to meet the requirements and our largest lifejacket still does not fit the person, then they cannot come, and there will be no refund.

    If you or a member of your group are pregnant or have special health or physical considerations, please call our office and consult a physician for recommendations.

    A parent or guardian must give permission for an unaccompanied minor (aged 17 years or younger) to
participate in a Mariah Wilderness Expeditions California Whitewater Rafting river trip.

    All participants must sign a liability release form, which are made available at check-in the morning of your trip.

  • Is there a minimum and maximum age requirement?

    Each of the river trips we do has a minimum age requirement. Generally, the South Fork of the American River and the Kings River require the youth to be 7 years old. That minimum age can be raised to age 12 in the spring and early summer if the water is higher than normal.

    The Middle Fork of the American and the Merced River has a minimum age of 12, and can be raised to age 14 if the water is really high in the spring and early summer due to unusually deep snowmelt. The Tuolumne is almost always age 12-14, and Cherry Creek is always age 17. Ages are set because the different ages usually reflect the youth’s maturity and ability to make basic safety decisions as well as physical maturity.

    A parent or guardian must give permission for an unaccompanied minor (aged 17 years or younger) to
 participate in a Mariah Wilderess Expeditions California Whitewater Rafting river trip.

    All participants must sign a liability release form, which are made available at check-in the morning of your trip.

  • Do I need to know how to swim?

    The ability to swim is required on Cherry Creek (you even have to take a real swim test at the put-in), expected on the Tuolumne, highly recommended on the Merced, and recommended on the Middle Fork of the American River. The ability to swim is not required on the South Fork of the American River. Persons with a chest or torso size over 52″ (life jacket maximum size) cannot participate in a Mariah Wilderness Expeditions rafting trip. If you or a member of your group are pregnant or have special health or physical considerations, please call our office and consult a physician for recommendations.

    Persons with a chest or torso size over 58″ (life jacket maximum size) cannot participate in a Mariah Wilderness Expeditions rafting trip. If you or a member of your group are pregnant or have special health or physical considerations, please call our office and consult a physician for recommendations..

  • Which rivers are close to where I live?

    Our map of California Rivers provides a complete list of rivers we run.We’ve also provided information for driving distances from the following locations: CLICK HERE — THIS LINK TAKES YOU TO OUR CALIFORNIA MAP PAGE
  • What do the different river ratings mean?

    International Scale of River Difficulty

    Class I – Easy-Beginner: Moving water with small waves and no obstacles. Class I rapids are found on every river.

    Class II – Easy-Beginner: Moderately moving water with gentle waves. Obstacles such as rocks are easy to maneuver through and around, mild gradient. Ideal for children ages seven and up. Class II rapids are found on every river. .

    Class III – Beginner-Intermediate: Moderate whitewater, exciting but not difficult. Obstacles such as rocks and changes in river gradients are easy to maneuver through and around. Ideal for the first-time adult rafter and youth ages seven and up. Trips: South Fork American and the Kings River.

    Class IV – Intermediate-Advanced: High volume whitewater that requires technical maneuvering; helmets are often required. Ideal for experienced rafters and youth ages twelve to fourteen and up depending on the water level. Trips: Merced, Middle Fork American, North Fork American, Tuolumne.

    Class V – Advanced-Expert: Maximum intensity whitewater. The river bed is extremely obstructed and expert navigating is required. A training seminar and a Class V paddler’s test are required. Trip: Cherry Creek.

    Class VI – Unrunnable (except in the movies). Ratings are based on a normal flow and can change due to water level.

    please call so we can help you select the most appropriate river.

  • What’s the best time of year to go rafting?

    Spring, beautiful spring; historically May and early June: This is when the high water usually peaks due to the end of the snows, the coming of warm weather, and the melting of the snows. Wetsuits are usually required. The Merced, Tuolumne, and the North Fork American are awesome during this time. The California flowers are blooming and the air is crisp. Of course, it can also rain but that makes the adventure even more memorable. Even the Kings and the South Fork American Rivers can be challenging.

    Summer — warm June, July, August, and even most of September, is warm, sometimes hot, the river currents slow down, and wearing apparel is shorts and t-shirts. Several rivers can be affected by the end of the snowmelt, i.e. North Fork American, Merced, and Kings, which are all “free-flowing” rivers, i.e. no dam controlling upstream reservoirs, which allow the Tuolumne, Cherry Creek, South Fork and Middle Fork of the American to receive inflows of water daily.

    Fall, September can be absolutely beautiful. At some point the trees start changing their colors, yet the air is still warm. Shorts and t-shirts are still the popular wear.

  • When should I make my reservation?

    We suggest you call our office, or book online, as soon as you start thinking about enjoying a rafting trip with us. Many of the more popular weekends sell out early; some rivers require limited numbers of rafters per group; many large groups reserve spaces, such as corporate groups, churches, scout troops, groups of friends. Yet, we are always busy taking last-minute bookings, so give us a call at 800-462-7424, and if there is available space, we will be happy to have you join us!
  • How do I make a reservation?

    You can make a reservation over the phone at 800-462-7424 or request a reservation online.
  • How do we get to the rivers?

    For directions, maps and driving times to the meeting place for your river trip, each river trip has an information sheet that gives you the directions as well as a list of what to wear. As an example: Meet Time, Directions, What to Wear for the South Fork American River 1Day Gorge Trip.
  • Nearby lodging?

    For a list of local accommodations, as well as surrounding attractions, and local weather information for each river, visit our California White Water Rafting Area Information
  • How many people fit in a boat?

    If you are rafting on the South Fork of the American, our boats can comfortably accommodate up to 8 guests plus their guide. On most of the other rivers we use smaller boats which accommodate 6 guests, plus a guide, due to the need to maneuver around tighter passages.
  • Can I reserve my own boat?

    Reservations are based on available space in each boat. We try to accommodate requests whenever possible. On the river, the guides will keep parties together whenever possible.
  • What should I wear?

  • Can I request my guide?

    Absolutely! The guides love to be requested. Feelings of friendships often developed. Many of our guides are requested frequently. Obviously, our guides return year after year. We have seen many of the youth grow up year after year. It is a wonderful feeling!
  • Should I tip my guide?

    We are frequently asked if it is customary to tip the guides. Our guides’ goal is to provide you with a fun and safe river trip. The guides do not expect a tip. However, they enjoy a token of your appreciation for a job especially well-done. A popular gesture seems to be for each crew to present their guide with around $10 per rafter per day at the end of your trip.

 


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Call us at 800-562-7424; like us on Facebook.