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River rafting season on Kings, Merced, Upper Kern to close early

June 18, 2012|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • River rafting on the Tuolumne River in 2009. Outfitters expect to run trips through Labor Day on the Yosemite river.
River rafting on the Tuolumne River in 2009. Outfitters expect to run trips… (Dan Blackburn/For The Times…)

The river rafting season in California has been very up and down so far this summer. Outfitters are closing the season on some natural-flow rivers in the Sierra earlier than expected because of the state's drier-than-usual year while rivers relying on reservoir water will continue to cash in on last year's big snowpack.

Trips wrap up this week on the Merced River south of Yosemite National Park and the Kings River, east of Fresno, this week because of low water flow, according to Bob Ferguson of Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions. The season for these rivers typically lasts until the Fourth of July.

"We're running low-water half-day trips," Ferguson said in a statement. "We're having those issues on any river with a natural water flow." 

The same holds for the Forks and Upper Kern River in Sequoia National Forest, also dependent on spring runoff. Last weekend marked the end of trips to those locations for Kern River Outfitters. "It was a fabulous but relatively short season on both of these stretches of river this year," Luther Stephens, general manager of Kern River Outfitters, said via e-mail.

But rafting season will be kicking into high gear on the Tuolumne River, which draws water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir system, and the Lower Kern River, which gets its flow from Lake Isabella.

"The ace in the hole on this stretch has been the last two big water seasons, which have filled Lake Isabella and allowed for these excellent rafting conditions to present for the whole summer," he said.

Outfitters expect one- and multiple-day rafting trips on the Lower Kern and Tuolumne rivers will be offered through Labor Day.

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