North Fork of Stanislaus River Rafting
The North Fork of the Stanislaus is a classic advanced river rafting trip through a beautiful central Sierra canyon. During the normal spring runoff this is a fun section of whitewater punctuated by classic rapids formed by granite bedrock and boulders. The upstream reservoirs provide semi-reliable flow during the summer months. This run can be navigated by smaller rafts as low as 400 cfs and is quite an enjoyable technical challenge at the lower flows.
Your trip down the "North Stan" will begin by putting in below the dangerous Class V+ Sourgrass Ravine on river right. Burly rafting types will choose to scout this rapid for giggles, but most will choose to put in just below it due to some nasty undercuts. This was a classic Class V drop until a landslide during the epic New Years floods of 1997 filled in the entrance with boulders.
You'll enjoy two tricky Class IV rapids just below put-in. These rapids are followed by some great Class III and IV rapids for the next few miles including The Slot. The dense pine forests make for a very pleasant day.
Your trip down the North Stan ends by floating into Calaveras Big Trees State Park and some amazing scenery. The last mile of the run includes the three great Class IV+ rapids The Thing, Upper Sequoia, and Lower Sequoia. There is usually quite an audience of tourists, sunbathers, hikers, and naturalists at the bridge to watch you paddle through Lower Sequoia. Take out by walking your boats up a steep hill to the bridge.
Continue down McKay's
There are two and a half miles of more difficult whitewater including three Class V rapids down river of the bridge. This lower run (called "McKay's") that ends at McKay's Point is more continuous and usually has several log hazards.
If you're interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out Creekin's North Fork Stanislaus near Arnold description.
To reach Calaveras Big Trees State Park (put-in): If you're in the central valley you'll want to get yourself on Highway 99 and head to Stockton. At the southern end of Stockton take Highway 4 east. You'll drive through the foothill towns of Angel's Camp and then Arnold. A few miles past Arnold, take a right into Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Park rangers at the front gate will ask you to pay a few bucks to the government in order to access the public land. From the entrance kiosk keep driving on the main road down to the river and put-in. You can park on either side of the river.
To reach Sourgrass Campground (take-out): Get yourself back on Highway 4 and head east towards higher ground. After a couple miles hang a right onto Board's Crossing Road. You'll travel a few miles to a fork in the road. The dirt road to the right goes to Board's Crossing. You'll want to bear left and go three more miles to Sourgrass Campground. The campground is on the right before the river.
Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.