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This photo shows a guided raft trip down the Tuolumne River conducted by an Oars crew. More information on rafting the Tuolumne can be found at

About two months ago, I twisted my knee and have been limping around with a cane ever since. My original diagnosis was bone spurs on my kneecap and it looked like knee surgery was in the near future. After a visit to an orthopedist, I got the good news that there were no bone spurs and that all I needed was some physical therapy. Praise The Lord!

In my earlier days, I used to walk down into the Tuolumne canyon to find great wilderness fishing. The Preston Falls trail from Early Intake was a great spot. and only a 4 mile walk in and then 4 miles back out. Since I prefer to fish as I’m wading upstream, I’m fighting the current the entire day which can get pretty exhausting. Other great spots were the Drew Ridge trail leading upstream several miles above Lumsdens Bridge. Another great spot was the Jawbone Trail which dropped about 2,000 feet down into the Tuolumne about halfway between Lumsdens and the Cherry Creek confluence; again at days end when I was already tuckered out, I had to face that grueling 2,000 foot climb back to my truck.  =Such hikes provided some great fishing, but are definitely a younger person’s game. I don’t think I could survive one of those Herculean treks anymore. I may be a fanatical angler, but I’m not suicidal.

=Fortunately, over the last 40 years or so a cadre of professional raft companies has sprung up to help out old codgers like me. You can get on a raft at Meral’s Pool, and float downstream from Lumsdens Bridge, and take a 2 or 3 day trip all the way down to Wards Ferry at the beginning of Lake Don Pedro. Professionally guided raft trips down the Tuolumne make the river accessible to old folks like me and folks with physical disabilities that otherwise couldn’t experience the wonders of a mighty Sierra river. 

The highlight of any trip down the Tuolumne is going over Clavey Falls. The first time I saw Clavey Falls. I was amazed, the entire river dropped off rock ledges into a maelstrom of water that looked much like the pictures I had seen of Niagara Falls. As they approach the falls the raft guides pull their rafts over and walk along the river to determine the best way to run a raft over them at that particular flow. I chickened out and told the rafting guide that there was no way I was going over those falls in a raft! So I climbed out and with my ever present fly rod began to fish my way downstream to meet the rafters below the falls. It wasn’t too long before I saw all kinds of gear floating in the river, including my aluminum rod case! The raft I had been on had flipped over and dumped all the passengers and gear into the cascade!

On subsequent trips at different flows I finally worked up the courage to actually go over Clavey Falls in a raft. It’s a heart stopping ride sort of like a roller coaster combined with a Maytag washer. It’s not for the faint of heart, but as near as I can tell no raft passenger has ever been killed there. You will definitely get drenched & you may go for a swim in icy waters, but it will be an experience you’ll never forget,

Somewhere in time, the river rafting experts came up with a rating system that ranks raft trips by degree of difficulty, a class I float trip is basically like floating in your bathtub with a slight current to keep you moving. No excitement, just peaceful relaxation while you observe the fish & wildlife. As the rating class numbers get higher, the ride gets more exciting.  A class III river is about the most that amateurs should try by themselves, while a class IV or Class V raft trip is a white knuckle, white water, roller coaster. Depending on water flows, the upper Tuolumne ranks as a Class III, IV, or even a Class V raft trip. If the Tuolumne doesn’t get your adrenalin flowing, you probably died some time ago.

You don’t have to be an angler to enjoy the wonders of the Tuolumne, but it’s a great way for old codgers like me to get into some great fishing, Reputable raft companies that I’ve known include: Sierra Mac Adventures, Oars, and Echo. Look them up under whitewater rafting –Tuolumne River. You’ll be glad you did!

Until Next Week,

Tight Lines