Whitewater Rafting on California's Merced River
Merced River tumbles over the cascading Nevada and Vernal Falls of Yosemite
National Park. The river meanders along the valley floor through Yosemite
and builds into a river of pure whitewater.
With its' steep gradient, sweeping bends, and few obstacles to negotiate the Merced provides long straight forward rapids with big rolling waves. This Class IV river is an excellent step up into the realm of advanced California whitewater rafting.
Images Courtesy of All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting
Wild and Scenic, the Merced is a free flowing river and only runs in the spring from April to July depending on winter snowpack. The Merced has 2 sections of river, both are excellent California whitewater rafting run's, with plenty of Class IV whitewater. There are several camping options along the river if you chose to string both sections together for a 2-day trip. Otherwise there are other camping options with a close proximity to the river. River Shuttles to the different access points are fairly straight forward.
From Red Bud picnic area the river meanders its' way 29 miles down to Bagby through a grassy, mid-sierran canyon. Come early spring, the hillsides come alive with vibrant colors from golden poppies, wild iris and purple lupine. Within this 29 mile stretch of river, the mighty Merced provides 9 major Class IV rapids, numerous Class II - III rapids and one portage around North Fork Falls (mile 22.6). Commercial whitewater rafting outfitters run trips on the Merced on a permit basis.
The upper, runs from Red Bud Picnic Area down to Briceburg. The lower section runs from Briceburg down to Bagby.
Red Bud to Briceburg
Starting at Red Bud Picnic Area, the Merced runs 15 miles down to Briceburg or 20.2 miles to Railroad Flat. The river right side of the Red Bud put-in is designated for non-commercial whitewater boaters. The river left side is for commercial whitewater rafting outfitters. It is not recommended to raft past Railroad Flat at flows above 1000 cfs, due to the hazards of being swept over North Fork Falls, a 30' unrunnable waterfall.
Briceburg to Bagby
Briceburg put-in is located 15 miles north of Mariposa off of Highway 140. The highlight of the lower stretch is a one-mile long Class IV+ rapid called Quarter Mile, which becomes extremely dangerous when flows are above 1000 cfs. The put-in area is open to both, private boaters and commercial rafting companies.
- Put-In: Red Bud Picnic Area
- Difficulty: Class IV+
- Length: 29 miles overall; 15 miles to Briceburg, 14 more miles to Bagby
- Season: April to July
- Gradient: 34 feet per mile overall.
- Runnable Levels: 400 cfs to 10,000 cfs
- Mile 15: River Access: Briceburg
- Mile 20.2: Take-out Railroad Flat Campground
- Mile 28.3: Take-out Bagby