Heavy snowfall in the Sierra Nevada and elsewhere in California is setting the stage for the biggest whitewater rafting season in years.
“It’s going to be tremendous,” said Beverly Demetriff, who co-owns and operates the 75-site Frandy Park Campground in Kernville, which caters to whitewater rafting enthusiasts on the Kern River.
“We’re already getting phone calls (about rafting),” Demetriff said, adding that recent heavy snows will likely extend the river rafting season into early fall this year.
“This year’s tubing and rafting season is likely to be extended not only as a result of record snowfall but efforts by water agencies to limit discharges from lakes and reservoirs in an effort to extend opportunities for rafting and other water recreation opportunities,” said Dyana Kelley of Camp-California.com, the statewide travel planning website for camping enthusiasts.
“Rafting companies know when water will be released from the dams and they schedule their whitewater rafting trips accordingly,” Kelley said, adding that some campgrounds also rent inner tubes, kayaks and other recreation equipment to accommodate river recreation enthusiasts.
CaliforniaWhitewater.com lists more than 40 companies that offer a wide variety of rafting tours in more than a dozen rivers across California. Here’s a listing of several freshwater river recreation areas across California along with suggestions on great places to camp:
The South Fork of the American River: This is one of the most reliable whitewater rafting rivers in California, thanks to carefully timed releases of water from an upstream dam. Rafting trips have been taking place every day since March 30 but the schedule may be reduced to certain days of the week by summer as water levels decline. Popular campgrounds near the South Fork of the American River include Camp Lotus and Thousand Trails Ponderosa in Lotus and Coloma Resort in Coloma.
The Kaweah River: This Southern Sierra river is entirely dependent on snowmelt, so its flows will be strongest in April and May. Popular campgrounds near the Kaweah River include Autocamp Sequoia; Sequoia RV Ranch; and Three Rivers Hideaway in Three Rivers.
The Kern River: The Kern River is divided into sections. The upper Kern River above Lake Isabella flows naturally. But flow rates in the lower Kern River are controlled by a dam. Camp-California.com lists 10 campgrounds near the Kern River, including Frandy Park Campground; Camp Kernville, Kern River’s Edge Campground and Limestone Campground, all of which are in Kernville.
The Merced River: One of the most popular rivers in California, the Merced River starts in Yosemite National Park and eventually merges with the San Joaquin River. The Merced River is entirely dependent on snowmelt, so its flows will be strongest in April and May. Popular campgrounds near the Merced River outside Yosemite include Dry Gulch Campground and Dirt Flat Campground in El Portal.
The Russian River: This river runs year-round, but is especially popular with river tubing enthusiasts during the summer months. Nearby campgrounds include Casini Ranch Family Campground in Duncans Mills.
The Truckee River: Several rafting outfitters offer family-friendly float trips along the Truckee River from Tahoe City to Alpine Meadows. Campgrounds in the area include Coachland RV Resort in Truckee.
The Lower Klamath River: A small number of outfitters provide tours along the secluded Lower Klamath River in extreme northwest California. Nearby campgrounds include Curly Jack Campground.
Consumers can find additional campgrounds near popular river rafting areas by checking www.Camp-California.com.