“This type of year happens once in a decade,” Scott Armstrong, owner of All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting, recently told Sunset. “Think of a roller coaster,” Nate Rangel, president of Raft California, also told the magazine, “where up is twice as high, and the low is twice as low.”
This year’s rafting season should also last longer, the operators say, since the still-melting snowpack in the mountains should keep refreshing the rivers’ flow through the summer.
The Sunset article laid out the experts’ picks for this summer’s most serious river rides in California—like the North Fork of the American River, whose flow has been unpredictable since 2011, but should now be vigorous through July. The Kaweah River’s season, which usually only lasts until the end of June, should also stretch well into July this year. A manager at OARS says that the Tuolumne River will offer its wildest rides through June, but can be rafted at lower levels all summer. Granted, all of these stretches can get into Class IV or even V rapids at their peaks—so typically not for beginners.
For anyone who wants a calmer thrill, you can find mellow waters later in the summer and even into fall. Check out this guide to California rivers, including the North Coast’s California Salmon River, the lively Kern River in the Central Valley, and relaxing floats along the Truckee River near Lake Tahoe.