Tuolomne River Trust this past Saturday. According to HDR Engineering, "The primary goal of the study is to determine if the Don Pedro Hydroelectric Project’s minimum flows result in boatable flows for non-motorized, recreational river boating in portions of the lower Tuolumne River where put-ins and take-outs are available." Tuolomne River Trust is well known for their "Paddle to the Sea" events they host each year in late spring. I'm hoping to get a team together for next years event!
We arrived at 9 a.m. at the Turlock Lake Rec Area campground where we met Peter from the Tuolomne River Trust. He made arrangements for us to shuttle our truck to the take out and bring us back to the put in. On the way back to the put in, Peter gave us a little background and history regarding the Tuolomne River and flows. Don Pedro Dam is up for relicensing and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is looking at flows below the dam. They basically want to know how often your kayak or canoe hit bottom.
After a brief orientation and loading gear, we launched at 11:00 a.m. with the flow at 200 cfs. We had two canoes, a raft with Carlos as guide and three kayaks, including mine and Amandas'. The first hour or so we paddled lazily down the river taking in the beautiful scenery. When we reached our first "rapid", really just riffles, we spotted the couple in the tandem standing on a little island warning us of overhanging trees. They flipped their kayak and were kind enough to stick around and warn us. The raft, a canoe and Amanda and I made it through with no problem but the last canoe hit the overhang and flipped. The water was only a few inches deep and the couple in the canoe were back in their boat quickly.
The first half of the trip, approximately 5 miles, there were a couple of times my kayak hit the bottom and I had to scoot it off the rocks. Only once did I need to get out and pull it off. Around 1:00 we stopped and ate lunch on a rocky beach and then we were on our way for the next 5 miles. The last half was just as wonderful as the first! Again I needed to scoot my boat off the bottom a couple of times and drag it once. We arrived at Riverwalk Park in Waterford at 5:00 so it took us 6 hours to paddle 10 miles. Keep in mind we had lunch, a few stops and paddled at a lazy pace. At a more brisk pace you should be able to complete this run in about three hours with flows of at least 200 cfs.
This was a great trip and I look forward to going back in the fall when flows are a little higher. To check real time flows you can click here.