Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some answers to our most commonly asked questions. If you have others that aren’t listed here, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Reservations and Trip Selection
Certain dates, especially holiday weekends, book up well in advance, so we recommend booking your trip early to reserve your spots. If we do have space available, we are able to book your trip a day in advance, or even same day on certain trips.
Can kids go rafting? Definitely! We welcome children 7 and older on the Kings and American rivers. (See our Kids Guide to the Kings River). On our more advanced rivers, (Merced, Tuolumne, and Kings in spring), the minimum age is 8-12, depending on the water level. During years when we have had a very heavy snowpack, the minimum ages will vary, and it is best to check with our office for updated river conditions.
Yes! We take non-swimmers on our rafting trips at most water levels. Our Coast Guard approved life jackets will float you should you fall out of the boat, and your guides will explain how to position yourself in the raft and in the river. During high water (if we have a big snowpack), there might be swimming requirements. Check our River Conditions page for more information on water levels.
Most trips are not particularly strenuous. You should be in relatively good health, but our guides handle all the heavy work, including camp cooking and cleanup. If you are in the paddleboat, you will be expected to paddle, but only through the rapids. Normally we prefer to float with the current in the calm sections…we don’t want to wear you out.
No. Most rivers are “pool and drop”, which means that stretches of exciting whitewater are interspersed with calm sections. The rivers we have chosen to offer have side creeks, hikes to historic mining sites, cave explorations, etc. We offer the whitewater, but a lot more too!!
No, river motion is nothing like being at sea and does not induce seasickness.
Definitely. We and all the outfitters that we deal with operate under stringent federal permits issued by various governmental agencies. Zephyr is a permitted Recreation Service Partner with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management , the Bureau of Reclamation, and the State of California Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
We pride ourselves on our professional guides, most of whom have been with the Zephyr family for many seasons. Each year, we train new guides at our own intensive whitewater school, and choose only the most qualified to work for us. Our guides are bright, articulate, enthusiastic, and charming. They are very knowledgeable about the outdoors, and are trained in local and natural history, conservation, camp cooking, and in both CPR and wilderness first-aid. Many of our guides have intensive Swiftwater Rescue training, as well as Wilderness First Responder training.
Packing and Preparing
We supply experienced and qualified guides, life jackets, wetsuits, paddle jackets, helmets, waterproof bags for your personal gear, great food, shuttles, and of course, boats and paddles.
A detailed list of necessary gear that you bring is included with each trip packet, which is sent to you after you make your reservation. This will depend on your trip length (you will need more gear on a 3 day trip than you will for a 1/2 day!) as well as the time of year and the weather (bring plenty of layers for Spring trips).
Most of our trips have a professional photographer who will take exciting action shots of you on the river. These pictures are available to view and purchase at the end of your trip. If you’d like to bring your own camera, you are welcome to do so at your own risk. Some of our helmets have GoPro mounts, and waterproof cameras that are easily accessible work as well. We have seen ‘waterproof’ phone bags fail, and we have seen phones dropped into the river, so we don’t recommend bringing phones.
Our river meeting spots have changing rooms available for you to change into your river clothes. You can arrive in street clothes, but have all of your river clothes handy and arrive early so you have plenty of time to change.
Generally, pretty luxurious. Our base camps on the Kings and American rivers boast a permanent camp kitchen, flush toilets, volleyball, horseshoes, picnic tables, and beach front campsites right on the banks of the river. On the Tuolumne River, we camp at several different sites, remote and extremely beautiful. Porta-potties are provided on these trips. We bring portable camp kitchens, and when dinner is served, you will be amazed at how much stuff we can take in the rafts. Our Merced trips are 1/2 and full-day trips only, but camping both before and after your trip is available in the Yosemite area.
Zephyr emphasizes food quality on all its trips. On our Kings River trips, our head chef buys all of our food from our local grocery store, and it is prepared fresh in our large, outdoor, riverside kitchen facility. Breakfast and Dinner are enjoyed at picnic tables by the riverbank, while a delicious deli lunch is prepared partway through your trip. On the Merced, we provide an impressive lunch spread by the river, and on the Tuolumne we bring all of the food and the kitchen on the rafts with us and create tasty meals in camp. We can accommodate Gluten Free, Vegetarian, and other diets with advanced notice. See our food page for more info and photos.
On Kings River trips, we serve wine with dinner, and on our Tuolumne trips we provide cooler space for you to bring your own beverages. Alcohol is definitely not allowed either the morning of your trip, or on-river. (NOTE: If you show up the morning of the trip intoxicated, you will not be allowed to participate. No refunds will be given.)
On the River
There will be a well-trained guide in every raft, on every trip.
Paddling is how we get our boats where we want them to go, so we expect you to paddle at least a bit! Our guides will provide paddling instruction at the start of the trip, and we will have time to practice before going downstream. You do not need to be big and strong to be a good paddler, as long as you listen to your guide and can work as a team. For a more complete description and photos, see our boats page.
Rafting is an outdoor adventure activity. We have modern equipment and well trained guides, but there is definitely a chance of falling out of the raft. All of our trips start with an in-depth safety talk where we will talk about what to do if you are out of the raft, and how we will get you back into the boat.
After the Trip
We are frequently asked whether it is appropriate to tip guides. While our guides are well compensated for their skills, if you feel your trip was exceptional, or that your guide or guides went out of their way to make the quality of your experience a notch above the norm, tipping is a nice way of saying thank you.
After your trip, the photos taken by our friends at Picture This will be available to view and purchase on site. If you decide you want to purchase photos after you get home, you can contact them on their website.