This valley section of the Tuolumne is scenic and an excellent beginner run. There is a salmon run in the fall season. The river is primarily flat, but there are many riffles, narrow channels and sharp turns. Those with even modest experience and caution will have an enjoyable time and want to return again and again.
The river does require minor maneuvering skill to avoid the occasional obstacle, but it is a very forgiving stretch of water. There are no drops or abrupt changes except for the man-made debris pile in the center of the river which occurs a few hundred yards below the La Grange Dam.
From La Grange down to Basso bridge boat ramp, the river is generally wide with numerous small riffles and even a small ledge drop. Turns are all fairly gradual.
From Basso Bridge to Turlock Lake State Park, the river seems to alternate between flat wide slow water, and narrow channels that are fast and twisty. These twisty, fast channels are great fun for those with good boat control. Beginners, on the other hand, can find themselves swept into the bushes and tipped over.
From Highway 99 in Modesto, take Yosemite Blvd (highway 132) for 32 miles to La Grange. From the south take highway 99 to Merced, then follow J 59 north, 30 miles to La Grange.
Put-in: Old La Grange Bridge. From the junction of J59 (La Grange Rd.) and Yosemite Blvd, travel 1/2 mile east on Yosemite blvd into La Grange, then turn left onto Old La Grange Bridge road. There is plenty of space to park in about 200 yards.
Links:Tuolumne River TrustSalmon Viewing Canoe TripsTurlock Lake State ParkFish restoration information.Friends of the TuolumneStanislaus Bird information.
Old La Grange Bridge , mile 0 google map
River access on both north and south sides of the river.
New La Grange Bridge, Mile .55
Riffle, Mile .77
Riffle, mile 2.30
Basso Bridge boat ramp, Mile 2.69 Parking, picnic areas and a boat ramp.
Turlock Lake State Park Campgrounds, Mile 8.66 google map
Good river access at campgrounds. Fees: $20 for camping or $6.00 per car, day use.
Roberts Ferry Road, Mile 10.71
Reported to be poor river access.
37.6362 , -120.6183
Oakdale Waterford Highway, Mile 19.0
Unknown river access options
37.6361 , -120.7585
Fox Grove River Access, Mile 24.44
Parking areas and boat ramps.
37.6193 , -120.8429
Similar River Sections:American in SacramentoMerced near SnellingSan Joaquin below FriantKings below Pine FlatKaweah near Woodlake
You can park at either end of the bridge, but the south side is a bit easier to find and a shorter drive. Drive into La Grange and turn onto Old La Grange Bridge Road. The bridge is very close and there is a fair amount of parking space. The carry down to the river is a bit steep but fairly short.
There is a large parking area with picnic tables, boat ramp, and grassy areas at this park next to Basso bridge. Turn off of Highway 132 just east of the bridge onto Lake Road. Immedeately turn into the park.
The river narrows, picks up quite a bit of speed and heads straight at a tall bluff wall festooned with hanging ferns. The current makes a sharp right turn and runs along the wall. Several rocks have fallen off the wall, protrude from the water and create obstacles to be avoided.
The campgrounds down by the river are very pretty and provide a good take-out or river access point. Talk to park personel about where to leave vehicles.
This looks to be a river access for power boats.
Flows between 150 and 300 cfs are considered reasonable for novice canoeists. More experienced paddlers who have previously paddled the river should find it enjoyable up to 1,000 cfs. Levels above 1,000 cfs should be left for strong paddlers with sufficient whitewater experience to deal with the hazards of fast, powerful and turbulent currents. In addition, during high flows the river spreads out and runs through all the trees and brush that are normally on dry ground. Paddlers mush have the skill to choose the safest routes, and to avoid the trees they will inevitably encounter.
Since 1995, minimum instream flows are at least 50 - 250 cfs in the summer time and at least 100 - 300 cfs in the fall and winter, depending on whether it has been a dry or wet year. These flows are due to the efforts of the Tuolumne River Trust and Dept of Fish & Game. Prior to that, minimum flows appear to have dropped as low as 13 cfs. See: Monthly average flows from 1985 to 2005.
Peak flows are usually in the winter or spring and generally range from 1,500 cfs up to 4,000 or even 10,000 cfls. The January 1997 floods peaked at 58,000 cfs. In some dry years the peak has occurred in October, ranging from 690 cfs up to 2,630 cfs.
Most of the flow of the Tuolumne river is diverted at La Grange dam for irrigation use by Turlock Irrigation District and by
Modesto Irrigation District.
Real time rain and temperature information is available from some nearby weather stations;
Green Springs station
and near Snelling
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Along the Weeping Wall
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This May and June join Paddle to the Sea – the Tuolumne River Trust’s popular paddle-a-thon where hundreds of river lovers and boating enthusiasts raft, canoe and kayak from the Sierra to San Francisco Bay. There is adventurous whitewater and mellow flat-water; fun one-day trips, or going the distance. Boaters of all skills and ages are encouraged to join.
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