Merced - 3) Routes 120-140 Junction to Park Boundary

Merced, California, US


3) Routes 120-140 Junction to Park Boundary (Merced Gorge)

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 6.8 Miles
Avg. Gradient 242 fpm

Merced Gorge

Merced Gorge
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe taken 03/12/09

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-11266500 300 - 1000 cfs V 00h33m 290 cfs (too low)

River Description

This section probably does not get paddled very much as it was discouraged / not allowed by Yosemite National Park, until 2014. The first descent, described in Holbeck and Stanley was enabled by Yosemite local Tom Meagher who arranged special permission. Other parties have descended the river, and by modern standards it may be comparable to other very difficult rivers now commontly run. It is likely that numerous portages remain for even the best boaters.  

Starting in 2014, up to 10 boaters a day may register to paddle this section.

Put in:  Elevation = 3820 feet.

Alternate Access Points: The road is close to the river over much of this section though it climbs away below Arch Rock entrance station. There are numerous potential alternate access points. In the area near Cascade Creek the gradient and difficulty on the Merced is moderate.  However, the park service may establish restrictions or protocols for access sites in order to protect riparian habitat.

Take out: Highway 140 comes back down to river level at the park boundary. There are two large turnouts for parking upstream of the motels.   Elevation = 2120 feet.

The total drop in this section is about 1700 feet over 7 miles for an average gradient of 240 feet per mile.

Other Information Sources:
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Water Activities

Merced & SF Merced Planning Process: 
Yosemite National Park released their Merced Wild and Scenic Final Comprehensive Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, and we're very pleased to announce that the Park Service has improved and enhanced opportunities to enjoy Yosemite via kayak, canoe and raft. The new plan places paddling on equal footing with other activities in the Park by managing visitor numbers similar to hiking and other backcountry uses. The plan considers river segments as "water trails" or backcountry routes

Permit Information

Starting in 2014, up to 10 boaters per day may paddle this section, after registering with the park. The method of registering has not been announced, yet.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-02-18 20:47:30

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

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Associated Projects

  • Yosemite Whitewater (CA)
    AW advocates for opportunities to enjoy the unique and spectacular rivers of Yosemite National Park.