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7 miles of cool river fun between Knights Ferry and Orange Blossom; whitewater rafting in October in Goodwin Canyon
Photo courtesy Sunshine Adventure Trips A group enjoying a cool excursion down the Stanislaus River out of Knights Ferry just 45 minutes east of Manteca.

KNIGHTS FERRY — It’s not whitewater rafting.

But without a doubt is it “the” float trip in the 209 including a Class II rapid suitable for beginners.

The float trip is the seven mile stretch of the Stanislaus River from Knights Ferry to Orange Blossom, easily accessible off of Highway 108/120.

It costs $40 per person weekdays and $50 on weekends.

The float season starts this weekend and runs through mid-September.

Those into serious whitewater rafting now that the season on the North Stanislaus River above Melones Reservoir has ended with the snowmelt starting to taper off, have to wait until October to enjoy three weekend options to raft the Goodwin Canyon below the South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s Goodwin Dam to Knights Ferry on the Lower Stanislaus River.

That’s when salmon run releases bring the rapids to life.

There are Class II and Class III rapids as well as two Class IV+, including her aptly named Mt. Toad’s Wild Ride.

There is even the Matterhorn — Class V-VI — that under most flows that requires portage.

The day trip that includes a professional guide, instruction, equipment, shuttle, and lunch that passes through the steep-walled volcanic canyon is $224 a person.

Yau can find more information or book an October trip at All Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting site at

You can also book other whitewater rafting trips on several Northern California rivers.

But if you’re like me that likes your thrills a tad less heart-stopping, at a more manageable price, and the ability to go on a weekday or weekend throughout summer, the 7-mile float trip between Knights Ferry and Orange Blossom ideal.

There are two options.

River Journey ( and Sunshine Adventure Trips (

Both offer float trips for $40 per person on a weekday and $50 per person on weekends as well as the Fourth of July and Labor Day.

There are also kayak options.

It’s been a few years, but I still remember the unique experience that the flat tripped offered

It was somewhere just below the aptly named River’s Edge Restaurant  and a minute after getting nailed by a kid sporting a water launcher from the safety of the bank that my apprehensions about rafting down the Stanislaus River disappeared.

I am not comfortable in water, period. Setting foot in any pool of water isn’t high on my list of things to do.

So naturally when I suggested to friends that we try a float trip down the Stanislaus River with Sunshine Adventures from Knights Ferry to Orange Blossom Park I thought I had lost my mind.

I started having flashbacks to parasailing over the Pacific Ocean some two to three miles off Maui.

But I was committed. Two weeks later, there I was in a raft with five other people two three small personal ice chests and a goodie bag.

There is only one real “rapid” and a series of smaller rapids on the seven-mile trip that takes about four hours to complete (time varies based on river current) but we did it in slightly less due to a bit of aggressive paddling from time-to-time. If it weren’t for those few rapids, the trip would be rated Class I instead of a combo Class I-II.

After navigating the Russian rapids that come about 10 minutes into the trip and realizing that the company representative back at Knights Ferry giving us our safety instructions said it was the worst stretch, I started to relax and enjoy the idea of rafting on the cool Stanislaus water accented by extensive vegetation including trees seeming to grow sideways as they jutted out across the water.

It was those trees that actually produced some of the most “fun” for us as we struggled in vain several times to avoid going under them.

The safety instructor’s lean forward rule (to avoid getting whacked in the face should a limb get caught) worked well on all but one huge limb we found ourselves confronted with.

That’s when a lady on the bow of the raft suddenly leaned back as far as she could when we swept toward the bank on one bend after trying vainly to paddle away. One side of the raft then dipped into the river as we took on about 7 inches of water. A friend almost went out the back.

We were able to clear the undergrowth of the tree and get back toward the middle of the river. This is when we discovered the real use for the personal ice chests — bailing water.

As odd as it may sound, the close encounter with the tree was fun. (See, I told you I had lost my mind.)

During the journey to Orange Blossom, we came across the spectacular “Two Bluffs” volcanic area that created a canyon-like feel, passed under Lover’s leap which has been marked by an American flag since shortly after Sept. 11 and plenty of wildlife from wood ducks to catfish we could see through the clear, cold water slithering along the river’s bottom.

The human parade was just as interesting and pleasant.

It ranged from a group of teens trying to battle us with their water guns — they got us wet but that was only after we overtook them— kayakers, canoers, and fishermen in the water and on the banks as well as a family camping at Horseshoe Bar where we beached to use the restrooms and stretch our legs.

But perhaps the best part was simply soaking up the beauty and tranquility with five friends.

At $50 per person (including the return trip via bus to Knights Ferry) for the self-guided tour, it is the best weekend entertainment value you’ll find in these parts.  

It is an honest-to-goodness float trip unlike the Class III-IV adventure from Goodwin Canyon to Knights Ferry. That guided trip requires good swimming skills, costs a lot more and sometime requires wetsuits.

Most people, however, will be more than thrilled with the Knights Ferry to Orange Blossom trip. They provide the life vests, oars and rafts. They recommend you bring an extra set of clothes (to keep in your car), sneakers, bathing suit or shorts, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses with leash and as windbreakers on windy days.

There is now a $10 parking charge that the Army Corps of Engineers collects for parking at Knights Ferry.

They are available at a kiosk.

And, yes, they do ticket vehicles on a daily basis at a much higher cost than paying the parking fee.

It is advisable to book early. Also, weekends can fill up before the dates arrive so planning in advance gets you the best outcome.

Knights Ferry is 45 easy minutes from Manteca via Highway 120 headed east.



To contact Dennis Wyatt, email