The Stanislaus below Knights Ferry is very scenic with beautiful cliffs and lush riparian forests. There are houses along the river in many areas, and there is traffic noise from highway 120 or Orange Blossom road in a number of areas. Yet, it mostly feels very secluded. In the summer time thousands of people float the river and there are two outfitters that rent rafts. Boaters looking for solitude will have to go early in the season or perhaps very early in the day during the summer. The Army Corp of Engineers has built a series of excellent parks and river recreation access areas along the river from below Goodwin Dam to the confluence with the San Joaquin River. These parks are part of the mitigation for the construction of New Melones reservoir.
There is one significant rapid at the beginning of the run, but after that the river is mostly flat with sections of swiftwater at 2500 cfs. At lower flows there may be more riffles.
Getting There: The take out is just east of Oakdale and the river runs next to Highway 120, the northern highway into Yosemite National Park. From the north, one can take Highway 120 from Manteca, or 108 from the Modesto area. Coming from the south, one can take J59 north from Merced, or turn directly north at Atwater or at Turock.
Take-out: Orange Blossom Recreation Area is a few miles east of Oakdale. has parking, picnic areas and hiking trails. From Highway 120 look for Orange Blossom Rd. Immediately after crossing the river over the Orange Blossom bridge, turn left onto Roddon Road, then left again into Orange Blossom Recreation Area.
Put-in: Knights Ferry Recreation Area is about 7.3 miles upstream on Orange Blossom road. There are large parking areas on both sides of the river, but the easiest river access is on river right at the visitor center parking area. The center is run by the Army Corp of Engineers.
Knights Ferry Information Center
Other useful information:cacreeks.comBay Area CanoeingSalmon spawning gravel restorationStanislaus River ParksKnights Ferry HistoryPashnit.com page about Knights Ferry1860's Knights Ferry Photo1860's Knights Ferry PhotoNew Melones information
A public park that has an easy takeout on river right. There is free parking, port-a-potties, hiking trails, free visitor center, boat launching areas, and picnic tables.
The main channel flows to the right against rocky bluffs. The rapid is about 200 yards long and bends gradually left. A large sign marks a portage trail on the left. There is a narrow trail on the right at the rivers edge, but the property above that is private and marked No Trespassing. Russian Rapid is comparable in difficulty to other rapids on valley rivers: Broken Bridge on the San Joaquin below Friant, rapids on the Kings below Pine Flat, etc.
A section of swiftwater could have waves on the outside of the bend.
Swiftwater bends sharply left, through a narrow gap in the trees. Floaters who get in trouble at Russian Rapid and don't rescue themselves, could end up in the log jam at this bend.
A very scenic section of the river.
This distinctive promontory is visible for a good distance upstream and downstream. Highway 120 runs next to this peak and then nextto the river. Traffic sounds are easily and often heard in this area.
There are boat launching areas here.
There is a parking lot and river access on the right channel. However the right channel becomes very narrow and may dissappear at low flows past the boat ramp. The main channel goes to the left.
Take out on river right, directly underneath the bridge. There is a narrow boat ramp. Orange Blossom Park has a picnic tables, toilets, large areas of lawn, a hiking trail and plenty of parking.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Orange Blosom Park
Orange Blosom Bridge
Swiftwater and Trees
Honolulu Bar Rec area
Horseshoe Rd Rec area
Big Pond exit
Sharp bend below Russian
Russian Rapid tail waves
Russian Rapid from below
Russian Rapid from above
Russian Rapid entrance
Visitor Center display
Knights Ferry Parking lot
Russian Rapid from the top
Put in Beach
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!