We can anticipate great rafting on the South and Middle Forks of the American River this season despite the dry December of 2017, which has produced a below-average snowpack (3%) according to the Department of Water Resources (DWR). The reason is that the massive amount of rain and snow that fell in 2017 left storage in the 154 reservoirs tracked by DWR that is above average (110%). In fact, “End of the year storage is now the highest since December 2012…”
The carryover from 2017 should result in fun, robust and reliable flows for rafting on the South Fork of the American in 2018. This will definitely include all weekends and also most weekdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The Middle Fork looks good too!
What lies ahead for the rest of the water year? What about the North Fork of the American, Yuba, Tuolumne, Merced, Kern, Kaweah and other rivers? The answer is: no one knows for sure! To quote Grant Davis of DWR: “Current technology and computer modeling can tell us what our weather might be weeks into the future, but we are essentially blind to what our weather will be beyond the two-week mark.”
This means that the 2018 water season could still fall in a wide range from wet to dry depending on what happens going forward. Each season most of California’s precipitation comes in 2-5 large storms delivered by the Atmospheric Rivers (ARs) originating off Hawaii. These were diverted away by a ridge of high atmospheric pressure throughout December. Since the majority of annual precipitation occurs in January, February and March, it is too early to count the ARs out!
We will update our flow predictions, as more DWR data is available. For now we know there is sufficient storage to ensure great rafting flows on the South and Middle Forks of the American and it will likely get better as the winter progresses. In California these two rivers represent most of the whitewater rafting in the State for many reasons. Predictable flows, even in drought years, are one very important one. At Mother Lode the best time to book your 2018 rafting trip with confidence starts now. Don’t let your favorite date get away!