North Fork

pic2The North Fork of the Stanislaus River runs in the Sierra Nevadas, and in doing so presents a very different kind of run than the Lower Stanislaus does. Commercially, trips run from Sourgrass (close to Dorrington) to Caleveras Big Tree State Park, about seven miles downstream. The North Fork is a technical class IV+ river, meaning that only very experienced crews should attempt this river in a non-commercial fashion. If you are a non-experienced rafter looking to get your feet wet, there are plenty of commercial operations that can help you get started on the North Fork.

After the put-in at Sourgrass, the rapids start right away on Beginner’s Luck, a series of 3 drops that can put you in the water early if you are not paying attention. In the first mile of rafting you will encounter multiple class III rapids, as well as the class IV Rattlesnake rapid. At Rattlesnake a large horn rapid in the center turns the rapid into an S-rapid, and a submerged rock to river left is routinely crashed into by unsuspecting rafters.

Over the next four miles, Bear Claw, Convulsion, and Wallet Slot will test your ability to move through technical rapids, and will punish those without the proper experience. All of these class IV rapids should be scouted before running. At the five mile mark, Macheck’s Mayhem rears its ugly head, and rafters should take care to avoid the rock at the beginning of the rapid so they don’t end up swimming through this extended period of whitewater. Scout river left here before running this class IV rapid.

After running through some more mild (though still intense) rapids, the trip comes to a conclusion through a series of three class IV rapids named Sequoia Sluice. This rapid is broken up into the upper, middle, and lower section, all of which would be class IV rapids alone. If you make it through the Sluice, you are through the most difficult part of the run, and the take out at Caleveras Big Tree State Park is right downstream.

If you or your group are interested in learning more about the North Fork you can visit ( or call All-Outdoors at 1-800-24-RAFTS.

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