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Great news for Sierra river runners.

Great news for Sierra river runners Five consecutive years of drought doesn't sound like an ideal prescription for great whitewater rafting in California. But prodigious amounts of snow dumped by late-season storms on parched Sierra Nevada slopes have combined with the drought's lingering effects on reservoir levels to produce the most promising outlook for summer rafting in a long time. Many Sierra reservoirs should be sufficiently full to permit raftable releases through the summer, while others will be low enough to uncover stretches of river that were formerly inundated.

We talked with several outfitters to compile a list of Sierra rivers that should be raftable well into the summer. For information on guided whitewater outings, call the hotline of the California Chapter of America Outdoors at (800) 552-3625. You'll be sent a directory that lists outfitters and the rivers they run, as well as brochures from individual outfitters who run any particular river that interests you.

Rivers are listed north to south. We use standard difficulty ratings, ranging from class 1 (easy, with no rapids or serious obstacles) to class 5 (extremely difficult, with long and violent rapids).

Feather River. Thanks to the drought, several miles of the North Fork formerly submerged by Lake Oroville are now running freely; at our press time, several outfitters planned to offer outings on at least 7 miles (class 4) of the river.

American River. The popular South Fork (class 3) should be raftable every day through summer. Late rains greatly improved prospects on the Middle Fork (class 2-4), which should have raftable releases daily except Sundays.

Stanislaus River. As many as two dozen outfitters will be offering trips on the classic Camp 9 run (class 3), uncovered last year as New Melones Lake receded. A recently completed dam on the North Fork has created a new summer run (class 4) that should have raftable releases on weekdays.

Tuolumne River. Scenic and uncrowded, this river's class 4 and 5 runs were the big question marks pending decisions on releases from Hetch Hetchy and other reservoirs by San Francisco's water department. The late-breaking news is that the river will be raftable on weekdays through the summer.

Kings River. The three outfitters that offer guided trips (class 3) on the Kings are expecting their best season since 1986. Although undammed upstream from the rafting runs, the river might have raftable flows from snowmelt into August.

Kern River. The whitewater closest to Southern California urban areas, the lower run below Lake Isabella (class 4) should be running strong into August with the highest flows in five years.
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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Words:430
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