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Tuolumne Rivers: Below Lumsden Campground

Lg. Topo Map Click Here Weather CNN
Class III-IV Gradient 35'/Mile
Season Summer into early autumn Elevation 1440'
River Miles 18 miles Miles from SF ???
Put-In Upper Lumsden campground or (rafts) above Rock Garden, 1440' Take-Out Ward's Ferry Bridge high above the reservoir, 850'

20 Day Flow

Don Pedro Reservoir: Inflow
What do the numbers on the chart mean?
500-1500 CFS = Good levels for kayaking.
About The River...
[Descriptions from California Creek'in]

This total classic is one of the finest whitewater runs in California. The rapids are exhilarating without being very dangerous, camping is excellent, geology is interesting, and scenery is good now that forests have regenerated after wildfires of the early 1980s.

Although the Tuolumne is runnable in springtime, there are usually many other rivers running at that time, so boaters often save this run for summertime when little else is running. In May and June, snowmelt can create flows well above 8000 cfs. By July, dam releases create a more moderate 900-1300 cfs, often with less on Saturday and fish flow (200-500 cfs) on Sunday, just to make things inconvenient for recreational boaters.

Permit are required, selected by fee payment and lottery during the off-season. High water permits are the most sought-after. Kayakers can often pick up cancellations almost any weekend in August or September. Note the port-a-potty requirement, which encourages kayakers to make the run in a single day. (Rafters have a hard time doing this at low flows, so they abandon the river once Sunday flows diminish).

The shuttle is long and arduous. Your most cost-effective and convenient alternative is to drive your vehicles uphill early in the morning, pick up your permit, pay for a half shuttle at Casa Loma Store, then hitch-hike down to put-in. That way, your vehicles will be at take-out when you get there, and you can exit the easy way towards Sonora.

A mnemonic for remembering the first letter of class IV rapids thru Clavey is: ``rabbits never suffer having rested in philodendrons, slowly eating bunched carrots.''

0 Put in on the left bank at Meral's Pool, near the river flow gauge.
.1 Rock Garden, class IV, scout right
Runnable almost anywhere in an inflatable kayak, and great fun too. At low water, a real pain for rafts; wraps and wedges are commonplace. At low flows, rafts and kayaks must enter right and make a yo-yo move sharp left behind a large rock outcropping. At moderate flows, boats can run far left all the way. At high flows, the sneak route is down the right side, and another rock outcropping near the bottom creates a huge reversal about the size of a suburban swimming pool.
.4 Nemesis, class IV-, hard to scout
This rapid starts with a boulder field of moderate gradient, continues into some bigger drops, then piles into a rock cluster, the Nemesis itself. Although the rock cluster might change with future floods, the current route is diagonally left to right. At high water the sneak route is on the left. Some additional drops and rock slaloms present themselves below.
.8 Sunderland's Chute, class IV+, scout left
The river turns right and drops over a gravel bar on the left and a series of rocks against a small cliff on the right. You can scout this rapid by walking over the gravel bar among willow trees. Enter left, but not too far left, and choose a good opportunity to work left and avoid the big holes at the bottom right.
1 Hackamack's Hole, class IV-, boat scout
Contains two rocks near the center. It's easy to navigate between them at low flows, but at high flows they create a single reversal. Named after Bob Hackamack, a longtime Sierra Club river activist.
1.5 Ram's Head, class IV, scout right
After a short respite, the river bends left, drops over a gravel bar on the right, and piles into a cliff on the left (a smaller mirror image of Sunderland's Chute). There are rocks to avoid and drops to punch in the upper section, but the main problem is a large rock (class V hole above 3500 cfs) smack dab in the middle near the bottom. You can go either right or left of the Ram, but you must decide.
1.9 India, class IV-, boat scout
After another short respite, the river narrows and curves sharply left against the right wall, into a hole. A down tree (1998) makes the entry more constricted than in the past. Named after an early woman kayaker, India Fleming.
2.1 Phil's Folly, class IV-, boat scout
Swift water continues over some drops leading into several rocks with blind exits. Kayaks have no problem here, but at low flows rafts are restricted to one or two channels between the rocks. After this, relatively easy rapids follow for about two miles.
3.3 Tin Can Cabin camp on the left bank, connected by hiking trail to Lumsden Road.
4.4 Stern, class IV, possibly scout left
Big boulders block the river. For rafts at low summer flows, this is one of the most feared rapids on the river. At higher flows many routes appear, so this rapid becomes easier. The low water route is a boat-width channel between the leftmost boulder and the cliff on the left. The drop just before the narrow channel contains a diagonal wave that turns boats rightward, so be sure to counteract that tendency with the appropriate strokes.
4.7 Evangelist, class IV, possibly scout left
The river veers right and enters a series of drops. The second or third drop contains a large rock (hole at high flows) right of center, and the best low-water route is to the left of that rock. Rafts sometimes get wrapped there, in which case, this one will make a believer out of you!
5.1 Bent Thole Pin, class IV-, possibly scout right
An innocent-looking series of drops leads into a steep falls over some rocks that plug the exit. A large rock wall lurking on the left below has jammed rafters' oars, hence the name of this rapid.
5.4 Clavey Falls, class V- or IV+, scout right or left
On river right just past the Clavey confluence, the Tuolumne drops over a 3 meter falls into rock-strewn turbulence, surges into a cliff on river left, then crashes into a monster hole downstream, and finally collects to the left past Dinosaur rock before reaching somewhat calm water. The route on the right is rated class V- for injuries it has caused, such as kayak pins and broken bones. An alternate class IV+ route on the left is available for kayaks, but is too narrow for rafts. This semi-sneak route starts left of a low island, drops steeply thru some rocks, then drops again between two underwater boulders forming a goalpost, and joins the raft route well above the monster hole. Using either route, the hole can be avoided by paddling to river right, but avoidance is easier when you start from the left side, because this eliminates right-to-left momentum caused by the falls rafts use. At higher flows even rafts can run the sneak route, and usually choose to. Scout right if you are in a raft, except at high water. Scout left otherwise. A narrow trail follows the left bank under tree cover, stopping just short of the aforementioned cliff. First timers might also want to scout the hole and lower rapid from the right, then scout the entrance from the left before running it. Portage on the right if you decide not to run the kayak route, which really isn't much tougher than Sunderland's Chute. For emergencies, a trail starts on the left upstream of Clavey, leading downstream and then uphill out of the canyon.
5.6 Son of Clavey, class III+
Just around the corner from calm water at the bottom of Clavey Falls, the river drops steeply over some plug rocks. It is difficult to see the best route from above. Afterwards, rapids taper off to class II.
7.5 Powerhouse from the gold mining days, destroyed by flood in 1937. This sandy beach makes a common lunch stop or a good campsite.
7.9 Grapevine Creek enters on the right. Ironically, Grapevine campsite is on the left bank just downstream. About .2 mile downstream, near the bottom of the flat gravel bar, is an abandoned hard rock mine shaft that makes an interesting exploration, with flashlights.
8.3 Indian Creek enters on the left. Ironically, Indian Creek campsite is on the right bank just downstream. This formerly offered a huge sandy beach, much diminished in the flood of 1997.
9.5 Gray's Grindstone, class IV, scout left (top only)
This fine rapid is about one kilometer long, perhaps longer if you count the class II rapid that follows a short break after a typical Tuolumne rock-cluster-at-the-bottom. The first sequence contains a series of holes and/or rocks, and should be scouted if you are not familiar with the rapid, so as to avoid a long swim. After the first sequence comes a long (but fortunately not very steep) rock garden with many possible routes. This leads to a rock cluster, best navigated with a left-to-right angle. During high water of 1998, the first death on this stretch of the Tuolumne occurred when a commercial guide sustained a head injury after a raft flipped in the first sequence of Gray's Grindstone.
10.5? Surf City, class III, big waves and lots of fun.
11 Thread the Needle, class IV or II+
A huge fractured boulder blocks the center of the river, offering bold boaters a chance to thread the needle. You can also choose the much easier Chicken Shot on the far left.
11.4 Driftwood, two excellent camps on the left bank with sandy beaches and afternoon shade from old oak trees. Just below is a class III rapid that is very shallow on low-water Sundays (go way left).
11.9? Steamboat, class IV-
A long gravel bar rapid leads into a big hole that often flips rafts at high water. Usually sneakable on the left side.
12.2 Mine shafts on both banks. Trail out of the canyon on the left. A rusty old steam engine litters the right bank.
12.6 Cabin, class IV, scout left
Big Humbug Creek enters on the left, probably causing this rapid. The river drops over a gravel bar and curves left around big boulders and over some big drops. For best results, ferry left after the gravel bar and stay mostly left. Large rafts will get stuck on low-water Sundays, but kayaks should have no problem.
12.8 Big Creek enters on the left, creating a large but unshaded campsite. Indian mortar holes nearby, and waterfalls upstream. For heavily loaded rafts, this is a good choice of campsite for Saturday night: you can run the first section of Hell's Kitchen with water, tie up your boats, then run the remaining river at low flows with no hang-ups.
12.9 Hell's Kitchen, class IV, perhaps scout left
This starts with class III drops over a shallow boulder bar, then turns into a slalom among huge rocks. The 2nd or 3rd slalom often causes wraps, especially for paddle boats, because a tricky underwater rock creates a tight move. Make sure the rapid is clear before entering.
14.4 Mohican mine, an abandoned quartz mine and rusty old stamp mill on the left. A trail (4WD in some years) leads up to Groveland on the left bank. A defunct suspension bridge hanging down into the river was pasted to the banks during the flood of 1997.
15.1 North Fork Tuolumne enters on the right. Many great campsites are nearby, some usually reserved for commercial outfitters. Downstream on the right, excellent campsites continue, all sunny and hot in the afternoon. The 1 mile upstream hike to a waterfalls is highly recommended if you have time.
15.8 High water mark of New Don Pedro reservoir.
16.5 Turnback Creek enters on the right.
16.8? Matterhorn, class IV-
When the reservoir is low, you find a long squirrelly rapid that passes a rock that looks like a miniature Matterhorn, then squeezes thru a rock fence blocking your view, and finally courses into a turbulent chute against the right bank.
17.6 Pinball, class III-IV
Because this is under the reservoir most of the time, it gets mighty silted up, so when it first uncovers, it is only class III. But after several drought years, the river washes away the silt and it gradually returns to its former class IV+ state. In the 7 year drought of the early 1980s, it briefly reached class IV.
18 Wards Ferry bridge, take out by climbing the right bank.
To reach Casa Loma Store (closed at night), drive east from Oakdale on highway 108/120. Just before highway 108 starts climbing steeply, turn right where highway 120 splits off. Wind along New Don Pedro reservoir, then climb the steep hill to Groveland (near the bottom of the hill past Moccasin, a right turn onto Old Priest Grade makes a good uphill shortcut.) Once past Groveland, continue east another 7.5 miles, and turn left onto Ferretti Road, marked with a glow-in-the-dark green sign. The parking area for Casa Loma Store is an immediate left turn. There are some flat spots for sleeping along Ferretti Road, and two USFS campsites at the bottom of Lumsden Road.

If you must reach take-out from Groveland, drive west just past the outskirts of town and turn right onto Deer Flat road, a shortcut. After more than a mile, turn right onto Wards Ferry Road and continue north. Past the final settlements, Wards Ferry Road becomes one lane as it winds steeply downhill. Parking at the bridge is limited, and vandalism at night has been reported.

To reach put-in from Casa Loma Store, continue north on Ferretti Road for almost a mile, then turn right across a cattle grate (near power lines) onto Lumsden Road. The put-in is about five miles down this bumpy one-lane dirt road.

If you opt to have all your vehicles shuttled, you can avoid the steep uphill drive to Groveland by exiting towards Sonora. Continue north and uphill on Wards Ferry road about 2 miles. Just over the crest of a hill at a left curve, bear sharply left onto Algerine-Wards Ferry road (Wards Ferry road continues uphill to the right). After about 4 miles, turn left onto Algerine road, which leads into historic downtown Jamestown, with several excellent restaurants.