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Tuolumne River Access Partially Restored (CA)

Posted: 06/09/2023
By: Jeff Venturino

The Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River canyon has been closed by managing agencies since March of this year in the wake of several atmospheric river events that caused widespread infrastructure and road damage. Major slides damaged both Lumsden Road and Ward’s Ferry Road. American Whitewater has been working with the US Forest Service, Tuolumne County, Hetch Hetchy Water & Power, Don Pedro Recreation Agency, the Bureau Land Management, and local outfitters to find solutions to restore access. While the current situation is less than optimal, we are fortunate to announce that there are access alternatives and American Whitewater will continue to work to direct attention and resources towards improving them.

Lumsden Road, which is the put-in for the Meral’s Pool reach and takeout for the Cherry Creek reach, sustained severe damage during the March atmospheric river events. While proposed Forest Service road repair processes would have taken several years, Hetch Hetchy Water & Power stepped in to facilitate repairs with a tentative 1-year repair window instead. These repairs would be undertaken by HHWP contractors who are already working on the Mountain Tunnel Improvement Project. Until Lumsden is repaired, an alternate put-in option down administrative road USFS 1S01 has been agreed to by the Groveland District Ranger. (See map here) Despite American Whitewater requests, and citing safety concerns, the Forest Service declined to open that road to the general public for vehicular traffic. The concern on that road is its steep grade and lack of turnouts for 2-directional traffic. However, paddlers are permitted to walk or hike that gated road in order to get to or from Meral’s Pool.

The take-out at Ward’s Ferry Road also sustained severe storm damage on both sides of the Ward’s Ferry Bridge. Tuolumne County Public Works predicts it could take more than 4 months until it is open to vehicle access from the south side. This will significantly limit the standard takeout. Paddlers will need to utilize an alternative downstream take-out at Moccasin Point Marina, managed by Don Pedro Recreation Agency (DPRA), approximately 5.5 miles below Ward’s Ferry Bridge. (See map here) Another issue just below Ward’s Ferry is a log boom. DPRA has placed the boom across the Tuolumne river channel to prevent large woody storm debris from floating up the canyon as the reservoir level rises. After direct discussion with American Whitewater, DPRA staff has agreed to allow portaging around the boom. The log boom is expected to remain in place for at least another month or two, depending upon debris cleanup and lake elevation rise in the coming months.

While we recognize that a 2 mile hike to the river and 5 mile paddle or tow across the lake are less than optimal, the Tuolumne River for 2023 is nevertheless open to paddlers that are willing to put some extra work in. We’ll continue to advocate for improved whitewater access on the Tuolumne as the season progresses and are optimistic that all of the access issues are likely to be solved by next Spring. Any updates will be posted to the American Whitewater river pages for the Main Tuolumne and Cherry Creek sections as they develop – if you’re accessing those resources and want to add your own alerts, trip reports, or information don’t hesitate to make edits or reach out with questions on how to interface with the river pages. See you on the river!

Photo by Dan Menten





Theresa Simsiman

Sacramento, CA

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