Bureau of Land Management National Park Service US Fish and Wildlife Service US Forest Service

Tuolumne River, California

Managing Agency:

Bureau of Land Management, Mother Lode Field Office
National Park Service, Yosemite National Park
U.S. Forest Service, Stanislaus National Forest


Designated Reach:

September 28, 1984. The main stem from its source to the Don Pedro Reservoir.


Classification/Mileage:

Wild — 47.0 miles; Scenic — 23.0 miles; Recreational — 13.0 miles; Total — 83.0 miles.

Tuolumne River

Tuolumne River

The Tuolumne originates from snowmelt off Mounts Dana and Lyell in Yosemite National Park and courses 54 miles before crossing into Stanislaus National Forest and Bureau of Land Management public land. The river flows through some of America's most spectacular scenery.

Below the National Park boundary, the river contains some of the most noted whitewater in the high Sierras and is an extremely popular rafting stream. It is described by river experts as one of the most challenging river runs in California. Commercial outfitters operate within a permit system under which the number of trips and passengers are limited. All private floaters, kayakers and rafters are also required to obtain permits.

Visitors are encouraged to plan trips in advance and reserve a permit. Advance reservations for weekend launches are limited to six trips per person per year. Reservations for the upcoming season can be made beginning January 1 each year. Permits are issued at the Stanislaus National Forest's Groveland Ranger District Office either the day prior to or before 10:00 a.m. the day of your launch. At that time unclaimed reserved permits are canceled and made available for other rafters. Permits are not required between October 1 and April 30. Please visit the U.S. Forest Service website for more detailed information regarding permits, permit reservations and associated fees.

The best time to float the Tuolumne River is usually May through September. Always check river flow information before taking your trip. High flows in the spring can make trips risky, especially for the inexperienced rafter. Between the end of high spring runoff and Labor Day weekend, the flows are heavily determined by releases made by Hetch Hetchy Water and Power (HHWP). Generally, the flows are ramped up for boaters in the early morning and remain higher for about four hours and then reduced again to minimum flows. This flow ramp-up does not occur on some Sundays when maintenance is being performed at HHWP facilities.

Many campsites are available to private rafters on a first-come, first-served basis. Seven commercial outfitters operate under a special use permit. The Stanislaus National Forest also has one permitted company that offers vehicle and passenger shuttle service. For more information, contact these companies directly.