california rafting trips & vacations

South Fork American 1/2 Day PM Gorge Run

Middle Fork American – Run the Famed “Tunnel Chute”

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Frequently Asked Rafting Questions

White Water Rafting Trip – Frequently Asked Questions

White water rafting faqs

The categories below show the International Scale of River Difficulty. The descriptions may sound rather scary, but remember, the descriptions are primarily designed for the inexperienced boater with no professional training.

In general, Class III is of moderate difficulty – plenty of thrills and ideal if you have never been whitewater rafting before. Class IV is more challenging but some are fine for adventurous first timers. Class V is the most difficult and should only be undertaken by strong swimmers with previous Class IV whitewater experience. The difficulty of a river often increases one level during the high water of Spring months. Please check out Choosing Your California Rafting Trip for the rivers we offer by level of difficulty. If any doubt, please call us for assistance in selection.

Class I – Easy: Waves are small, regular; riffles.
Class II – Medium: Rapids of medium difficulty; swift current, passages are wide and clear.
Class III – Difficult: Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks, eddies, rapids with passages that are clear though narrow, requiring expertise in maneuvering.
Class IV – Very Difficult: Long rapids, waves powerful and irregular; dangerous rocks, boiling eddies; powerful and precise maneuvering required.
Class V – Extremely Difficult: Long and violent rapids following each other almost without interruption; riverbed extremely obstructed; big drops, violent current, very steep gradient.
Class VI – Unnavigable: The upper extreme of whitewater rivers, commercially unrunnable.

There are risks involved in any outdoor activity and accidents can happen. However, we have been providing safe trips since 1978 and are permitted on some of the most difficult whitewater trips in California. Though there have been some injuries (people can sprain an ankle walking across rocks when not even in a raft), we have never lost anyone on one of our trips and there are outfitters who cannot claim that safety record. All participants will be required to sign an Assumption of Risk or Liability Release form prior to the trip.

We have various sizes of rafts and pick what is best depending on the particular river, the water levels at the time of the trip, and if there are small children. We always try and take in consideration the group sizes and plan accordingly, but there are sometimes limitations to what we can do.

Up to 8 clients/raft (most Class 2-3+ Rivers)
South Fork American River
Main Trinity River
Lower Klamath River
Lower Middle Fork American River
Lower North Fork American River

Max 6 clients (Truckee River and Class 4-5 rivers):
Truckee River (sometimes max 4-5 due to water levels)
Middle Fork American River
Upper Klamath River
North Yuba River
North Fork American River
Burnt Ranch Gorge (Trinity River)
Cal Salmon River
Kaweah River

If it is important to you to have rafts with no other participants, our reservations staff will be glad to take your requests. However, we cannot guarantee that unoccupied spaces will not be taken by other clients. The best bet is to bring a group and fill the raft. The trip leader on the day will make the final decision.

On easier Class 2-3 California whitewater rafting trips, inflatable kayaks can be provided for sharing (capacity 1-2), but these may be reserved for sole use for an additional fee (water levels permitting).

Nearly everyone can participate at some level including disabled and pregnant persons. If anyone has or has had in the past any medical condition we suggest you initially consult your physician. Some conditions may include:

  • Back and Knee Problems
  • Recurring injuries
  • Heart Condition
  • Overweight (see below for size restrictions)
  • Poor physical shape
  • Currently taking serious medication

We have no specific weight limitation, however, each participant must fit into one of our life jackets with all buckles fastened. Our regular flotation devices PFD’s (aka. life jackets) fit a torso circumference of 52 inches maximum. We have a few jackets that will fit up to 56” but they MUST be requested in advance. For whitewater sports, PFD’s without a “heads up collar” attached are not permitted.

It is also important for us to know in advance about any conditions that may affect anyone from being fully able to participate to ensure the enjoyment of all our guests. We also recommend you inform us ahead of time if anyone in the party exceeds 300#. At times of high water, additional criteria may be applied.

For younger children, we must also ensure that PFD’s fit correctly, and that is another reason for our usual min. age of 4 yrs. We have small children’s PFD’s that fit from 30-50 pounds and chest size of 20-25″, our youth jackets fit children from 50 pounds and up.

It is customary to tip your river guide. Though our staff is well compensated for their time, a gratuity is most appreciated. It is a great way to say thanks, especially if you received outstanding service. We hate to give fixed guidelines, and clients ability to pay extra will obviously vary. Any amount you think appropriate will be well received and will probably depend on the length of the trip. On overnight trips especially, our guides will have prepared at least 4 meals for you and have spent several days entertaining you, keeping you safe, and keeping you comfortable. However, tipping is entirely at your discretion.

Only for clients 21+. On overnight trips we provide a moderate amount of beer and wine for after the trip and to be consumed with dinner. Overnight clients are welcome to bring additional alcohol if needed. However, for safety reasons, alcohol is not allowed before or during a river trip. For our clients safety, we may refuse service to anyone we believe is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.