For two days every summer, the roaring booms of rapids crashing into boulders along a stretch of the Mokelumne River harmonize with the thrilled outbursts of rafters decked out in bright orange OARS helmets and life jackets.
The short window to float down the Mokelumne’s 5.5-mile Electra-Middle Bar Run south of Jackson with the Angels Camp-based commercial outfit is fast approaching.
Guided trips are offered on Sunday, July 14, and Sunday, July 28. OARS will run two 24-person trips each day, one at at 11 a.m. and one at 3 p.m.
Described as a “fun introduction to whitewater rafting,” the stretch of river is suitable for families and healthy seniors and does not require prior rafting experience.
The trip offers a mix of relaxing scenery-viewing as well as “fun, bouncy Class II-III rapids,” including the Chute, S-Turn and Devil’s Toilet Bowl. The entire trip, including transportation to and from the site, should take less than three hours.
Regular commercial rafting is not allowed on the Mokelumne, and only a few trips each year are allowed by special permit from the Bureau of Land Management, according to Foothill Conservancy President Katherine Evatt.
“This is a rare opportunity to float the Mokelumne and experience its beauty from river level with skilled guides and professional equipment,” said Evatt, as quoted in a press release.
The Electra-Middle Bar Run, however, is a hotspot for private kayakers from all over, as it offers a range of obstacles and opportunities to build skills, Evatt said.
As has been the tradition since 2009, OARS donates proceeds from the trips to the Foothill Conservancy to support its efforts to protect and restore the Mokelumne River. After more than a decade of the conservancy advocating to get a 37-mile stretch of the Mokelumne designated by the state as a Wild and Scenic River, a compromise was reached among a number of state and local stakeholders last May. The designation essentially prohibits any dam construction or expansion.
Those are the kinds of efforts the rafting trips raise funding for, and they typically sell out, Evatt said.
The cost is $75 per person, and advance reservations are required. The Foothill Conservancy is offering a deal to those who want to be new members or renew an existing membership: $100 in total to get the rafting trip for just $60, with a new individual membership costing $40.
Participants must be at least eight years old and adults should be in good health. Youth under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
To reserve a spot, visit brownpapertickets.com/event/4272913.
For more information about the raft trips, contact Carolyn Schooley at (209) 223-3508 or e-mail her at Carolyn@foothillconservancy.org.