Logistics for the Tuolumne River
Commercial vs. Private
The benefits of going rafting with a commercial outfitter are many, including the fact that they take care of the details such as permits, shuttles, campsites, and meals. However, many boaters opt for the less expensive option of running a private trip on the “T”, choosing to tackle the logistics on their own. Here is information that will help you put together a private Tuolumne River trip on your own.
The Stanislaus National Forest Service issues permits from May 1 – October 15, although checking flows to see if there is enough water during early and late season is a good idea. You can purchase permits in advance, which we recommend doing for an overnight trip, or you can pick up a day-use permit the day of your trip. Permits are $15 for groups smaller than 10. The Forest Service office is located about 1/4 mile past Casa Loma at 24545 Highway 120. You can call them at 209-962-7825.
Most campsites are first-come, first-serve, although it is nice to talk with the other boaters at put-in to see where they are planning to camp. In order to avoid tension between private and commercial trips, the Forest Service has designated a few of the more popular campsites as commercial or private, depending on the year, however if no trips are planning to camp there, they are open to anyone. Clavey Right, Powerhouse, and North Fork (downstream) are commercial campsites during odd-numbered years. Clavey Left, Indian Creek, and North Fork (downstream) are commercial during even-numbered years.
For overnight trips there are firepan and groover (portable bathrooms) requirements. Make sure to check with the Forest Service so that you have all the required gear with you.
During the height of summer, if Cherry Creek season is happening, you can often find a Class V, Cherry Creek kayaker who will happily drive your car or truck from Meral’s Pool back to Casa Loma for free. This is an oft-used method that saves everyone shuttle time and gas money.
Getting a car shuttle on the Tuolumne can be somewhat of a challenge. Although no commercial shuttle services are running these days, there are several ways to get your car from the put-in to the take-out. If you do pay someone to shuttle your car, the “going rate” is usually somewhere between $50 and $100. The main meeting spot for Main Tuolumne trips is at the old Casa Loma store, about 7 miles east of Groveland and 1/4 mile from the Forest Service office. You can leave cars at Casa Loma if necessary.
- Put-in for Main Tuolumne (Take-out for Cherry Creek): Meral’s Pool
From Groveland, take 120 East towards Yosemite about 7 miles. Take a left at the 2nd Ferretti Road (at the Casa Loma Store). Take a right on Lumsden Road. Lumsden Road is a one lane, dire road maintained by the Forest Service. It has been upgraded in the past few years, but a 4×4 is still handy. The drive down Lumsden takes about 35 minutes. You can park your car on the side of the road, just make sure you are out of the way. There are bathrooms available at Meral’s Pool.
- Take-out for Main “T”: Wards Ferry Bridge
From Groveland, take 120 West for a few miles. Go right on Deer Flat Road. Go right on Wards Ferry Road. Head down until you see Don Pedro Reservoir and Wards Ferry Bridge. Something to keep in mind is that cars left overnight at the Ward’s Ferry Bridge often get broken into, so if you are doing an overnight trip, it may be worth hiring someone to pick you up or drive your car to take-out on your last day. For a one-day trip, you can set the shuttle yourself, but get an early start because water turns off at 11am (from Cherry Reservoir).