River Conditions

The difference between High and Low Water

Over the winter, snowfall accumulates in the Sierra Nevada, and as temperatures warm up in the Spring, the snow melts and the rivers begin to rise. Our Free-Flowing rivers (Kings River and Merced River) have no dams upstream, and so the waterflow will change every day depending on the weather. In the Spring, when there is a lot of snow beginning to melt, our rivers typically run higher. Later in the summer, there is less snow melting and water levels start to drop. The time frame of High Water is entirely dependent on how much snow falls in the winter. In a normal year, April, May, and Early June will be High Water, while Late June through September will be Lower Water. On our Dam-Controlled Rivers (Tuolumne and American Rivers), there will still be higher water in the Spring and lower water later in the Summer, but the flows will be more consistent and more predictable based on the water being released from the dams.

Our High Water trips mean bigger waves, faster rapids, colder water (we wear wetsuits and extra layers), and a more adrenaline pumping trip.

Our Low Water trips will be warmer, a more relaxing pace, and more suitable for swimming and younger kids. Low water trips still offer excitement for the experienced rafter, with great waves and technical rapids, just at a slower pace and smaller scale.

If you are specifically looking for High Water or Low Water trips, the best bet is to call us at (209) 532-6249, or e-mail us at raft@zrafting.com and ask us what our snowpack looks like. We can give you our predictions for the season and guide you towards an appropriate river and date.

A word about Wetsuits and Water Levels:

Wetsuits are required during our early season trips (generally April, May, and into early June.) Most outfitters in California charge you to rent wetsuits. We do not! We provide you with a full length “Farmer John” style wetsuit and paddle jacket at no extra cost. We want you to be warm, safe, comfortable, and to be able to enjoy the higher water flows (bigger waves) and spring wildflowers that spring trips can provide. Wetsuits are not required during the summer months.

Please feel free to call one of our adventure consultants at (209) 532-6249. We would be happy to advise you and your group of the best time to raft and the best river for your particular needs.

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