We'll meet you at 8:30 am on the morning of the trip starting date at La Casa Loma which is 7½ miles east of Groveland on Highway 120. If you will be late, please call 209/962-7873. ARTA will provide transportation to the river and back; arrival time back at La Casa Loma should be between 5:00 and 6:00 pm.
La Casa Loma is located at 24000 Casa Loma Road which is on the north side of Highway 120 at the eastern end of Ferretti Road, approximately 7½ miles east of Groveland. There is also a Ferretti Road turnoff in the town of Groveland - do not turn here - this is the western end of Ferretti Road. Driving-time from the San Francisco Bay Area is approximately 3½ hours (through Livermore, Tracy, Manteca, and Oakdale); from Los Angeles approximately 7½ hours (through Merced, Snelling, La Grange, Coulterville, and Greeley Hill - you will bypass Groveland and join Highway 120, 1 mile west of La Casa Loma). There is no cell phone or gps service at La Casa Loma, so download the directions or bring a good map.
There is no public transportation available to Groveland. San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento and San Jose airports are all roughly 3 hours away. United Express has service into Modesto which is about 1½ hours away and rental cars are available from Avis and Hertz.
The elegant Groveland Hotel, (209/962-4000) and the cute Hotel Charlotte (209/962-6455) are both in "downtown" Groveland, (near the historic Iron Door Saloon). Evergreen Lodge, (800/935-6343), a unique collection of cabins on Yosemite's doorstep, is 30 minutes east and is a great option for extending your stay in the area before or after your trip. Red Tail Ranch (209/962-0863), a tiny Bed and Breakfast on 50 acres just up the road from us, is a relaxing place to stay if you have time before or after your trip and want to unwind. Another unique option is Sugar Pine Ranch, an old homestead with cabins halfway between Groveland and La Casa Loma (209-962-7823). Additional accommodations are available in Yosemite National Park, one hour away. Rustic camping is available at the Forest Service campground "The Pines" 1 mile east of La Casa Loma; reserved camping is available 10 minutes away at Yosemite Pines RV Park (209/962-7690) and one hour away in Yosemite National Park (209/372-0200).
Water Levels and Daily Itineraries: The Tuolumne is a dam-controlled river with wide fluctuations in flow. The high water season depends on winter precipitation and lasts for one to seven weeks, peaking around the end of May. During the high water period, the river has many solid Class IV+ and Class V rapids and everyone should be in good physical condition and ready for a challenging day on the river. All one-day trips are long and arduous and include two formidable shuttles, an intricate warm-up session, 18 miles of challenging river, at least one extended scout and only a short stop for lunch. All one-day guests should anticipate and be ready for a full day of adventure. Two and three day trips are less rushed and allow more time to enjoy the beauty and solitude of the canyon. During the summer, the river flow is regulated and we raft on daily hydroelectric releases from upstream reservoirs. These flows are exciting and fun, but do not require the same physical qualifications that spring trips require. Due to the distance from the dams, the water levels often do not rise at our downstream campsites until after noon. There is a lot to do near camp, but a good book, snorkel and mask, fishing rod, or other toy can be helpful in passing the time.
Types of boats: Because of the difficulty of the Tuolumne, we use self-bailing rafts configured as either paddle rafts or oar-paddle combination rafts, depending on the flow, paddler experience and interest.
PADDLE RAFTS are 14 feet long and carry 6 paddlers plus a guide who actively paddle through the rapids and down the river. Everyone has a paddle, sits on the outer tube of the raft and follows the commands of the guide who sits in the rear. This is an exciting to enjoy the Tuolumne; everyone should be ready to participate.
OAR-PADDLE COMBINATION RAFTS are 14 feet long and are steered by a guide using two oars and assisted by 2 to 6 paddlers riding in the front. This configuration allows for slightly more control by the guide and puts slightly less demand on the paddlers, but everyone should still be ready to participate.
Meals: We'll provide lunch on one day trips and all meals from lunch on the first day through lunch on the last day on longer trips. Our meals are tasty, well-balanced and consist of quality foods with fresh meats, fruits, and vegetables. Our guides will double as camp chefs and the menu includes a wide variety of dishes. Lunches usually consist of hand-foods and are served picnic-style at riverside stops. Dinners and breakfasts are cooked over an open fire and often include Dutch Oven baked treats. If you have special dietary requirements or are celebrating a special event during the trip, please let us know in advance.
Drinks: We will provide water, lemonade and punch during the day and hot coffee, tea and cocoa in the morning. If you would like soda, beer, wine, or liquor with your dinner, please bring your own in unbreakable containers, (beer and soda in cans, wine in bags/boxes or plastic bottles and liquor in plastic bottles).
Camping: Tuolumne River campsites are idyllic spots deep in the heart of the canyon. Some are at sidestreams and offer great swimming and hiking opportunities, others are big beaches with lots of shade and space. We'll set up a central kitchen area and you'll pick out a spot nearby to pitch your tent or lay out your sleeping bag. It rarely rains, bugs are insignificant and nights are generally mild, so sleeping out under the stars is a great and popular option. We'll help you set up your camp, introduce you to The Groover, our portable toilet, and help you feel right at home.
Weather: Tuolumne trips in April are sometimes cool and rainy, but just as often they are cool and sunny. By mid-May rain is pretty rare and the temperatures warm up nicely. By June the weather is usually great with daytime highs in the 80's or 90's and nights cooling off into the 60's. Mid-summer Tuolumne weather is ideal for rafting: hot, dry, clear days and pleasant evenings, nights and mornings.
Fishing: The Tuolumne has a lot of rainbow trout and the fishing is pretty good. You'll need a California fishing license and either some light spinning or fly-fishing gear. The regulations require single barbless hooks and artificial lures and flies only (no worms). You don't need a lot of tackle but you do need to protect your rod in a sturdy case.
Travel Insurance: Life is full of surprises! We suggest you purchase supplemental travel insurance for your trip. Trip cancellation, evacuation, baggage loss and other coverages are available for between 4% and 11% of your trip cost. You can get more information at www.travelinsure.com; please enter ARTA's Participating Organization Number (32033) at the top of the enrollment form if it isn’t automatically entered.
Gratuities: We want you to feel like a guest in our home. But if you feel that your guides did an outstanding job, a post-trip gratuity is a flattering way to let them know. Tips should be based on your satisfaction, your financial means and your attitude about tipping. Tips typically range anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the trip cost, (with the occasional recommended book or coveted hat thrown in). It is customary within ARTA to give the tip to the Lead Guide who will distribute it equally amongst all of the staff. And thank you very much.
Local Attractions: Welcome to Groveland! This is our hometown and we are very proud of it. Things here are rustic, remote and beautiful and even though Groveland is a tourist town (in the summer), we don't have the facilities of Lake Tahoe or Napa Wine Country. Things here are pretty simple; one grocery store, four or five restaurants, half a dozen places to spend the night and spotty cell phone service. Here are the don't miss attractions (local knowledge):
Yosemite National Park. A no-brainer. If you've never been, plan at least one day before or after your Tuolumne trip to check out the Park; taking a Tuolumne trip and not visiting Yosemite would be like going to Hawaii and not swimming in the ocean. The popular Valley attractions are the Mist Trail (anytime, but particularly in the spring), Yosemite Falls and strolling along the Merced River while gawking at climbers. A quick drive out to Glacier Point is stunning. If you have more time and are in good shape: hike up the back of Half Dome and at least look at the cables (you need a permit to actually go up on the cables, worth it if you aren't afraid of heights). A visit to Tuolumne Meadows will give you a new perspective on the Park (flat meadows versus giant cliffs).
Stanislaus National Forest. Almost everything around Groveland that isn't National Park is National Forest. There are numerous campgrounds, lots of dirt backroads, a few swimming holes. Just a few miles east of La Casa Loma on Highway 120 is Rainbow Pool, a cool waterfall and swimming hole; too popular amongst the locals on weekends, but worth checking out on a weekday. Further east, off of Evergreen Road, is the less visited Carlon Falls.
Evergreen Lodge. A collection of renovated cabins and a rustic restaurant in a beautiful setting. If you want to extend your visit and can't find accommodations in the Park, this is a great option.
Camp Mather, Berkeley Tuolumne Camp, San Jose Family Camp, Camp Towonga: A collection of family-oriented campgrounds with tent cabins, campsites, and formal activities all situated along the Tuolumne. Very popular vacation destinations.
Cocina Michoacana. THE place to eat in Groveland. Small, rinky-dink and deceiving, but authentic, friendly, and tasty (and we've never gotten sick). If you're unsure of what to get, just say "Number 20. Chicken. Flour." and you'll be happy. Trust us.
The Iron Door Saloon. Groveland's most famous landmark ("the oldest saloon in California"). Full of history, mystery and locals. Live music and dancing on most weekends in the summer. We recommend this for AFTER your trip, if you know what we mean.
If there are any questions we haven't answered, please feel free to contact us. We really enjoy talking about our trips and our hometown, so don't hesitate to call: 800-323-2782.
The Tuolumne River is born high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Yosemite National Park. From 13,000 foot Mount Lyell Glacier to its confluence with the San Joaquin, the river flows through some of the most primitive and scenic country in California. The Miwok Indians inhabited the canyon for nearly 1,500 years and the river derives its name from a tribe who lived in the region. In the mid 1800’s, the California Gold Rush brought a flood of miners into the canyon. As gold fever subsided, these rugged inhabitants moved on, leaving behind a decaying legacy of their short visit. A stone powerhouse, a stamp mill, abandoned cabins, and mine shafts still remain in the canyon as reminders of this period.
Our 1, 2 and 3 day trips begin at Meral’s Pool, a quiet spot in the river about 23 miles downstream from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, and end at Ward’s Ferry Bridge 18 miles later. For the first six miles, from Rock Garden to Clavey Falls, the rapids come almost non-stop as the river winds and drops through numerous granite boulderfields. Clavey Falls, at mile 6, is a whitewater event which you will never forget. Below Clavey, the rapids continue but are separated by short pools which allow us a welcome opportunity to enjoy the scenery and solitude of the canyon. Camping is along the river at pristine, wilderness sites, often near a beautiful sidestream.