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Paddlesports Schools:

Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School
Located in:
Forks of Salmon, CA

More Details
Our Website
Otter Bar offers all skill levels of whitewater kayak instruction based out of our wilderness lodge on California's pristine Salmo (more...)
site home  :: self guided home  :: U.S. river guide  :: California River Trips  :: Merced River California

Kayaking & Canoeing Merced River California

Merced Gorge
Put-in:  Routes 120 - 140 Junction
Take-out:  Arch Rock Entrance Station
Difficulty:  Class V+
Length:  4.8 miles
El Portal to Briceburg
Put-in:  El Portal or Indian Flat Campround
Take-out:  Briceburg or Railroad Flat Campground
Difficulty:  Class III to IV @1000 - 2000 cfs, III to V- @2000 - 4000 cfs, IV to V > 4,000 cfs
Length:  ~16 miles
Red Bud to Bagby
 photos of Red Bud to Bagby
Put-in:  Red Bud Picnic Area
Take-out:  Bagby
Difficulty:  Class IV (P)
Length:  29 miles
South Fork Merced River
Put-in:  Wawona
Take-out:  Highway 140
Difficulty:  Class V+
Length:  23 miles


The Merced River – meaning “mercy” in Spanish, begins in the peaks of Yosemite National Park. This is a perfect run for boaters who are also interested in visiting the park, which is only 40 minutes from the put-in. It is recommended that boaters take this trip in the spring, when waters are high, and the canyon floor is lined with a rainbow of wildflowers like lupine, red bud and California poppy. This is also a great time of year to visit the National Park, as it is not yet flooded with tourists.

This stretch of the Merced offers first-class early season whitewater, combined with picturesque canyon scenery featuring pine forests, rocky ledges and sandy beaches. Boaters can look forward to miles of continuous white water, rollercoaster wave trains and adrenaline pumping rapids.

While the season for running this river is short, it is very intense. Some expert boaters choose to start their run at El Portal where the river’s gradient is over 120 feet per mile. Even at the most popular put-in, Red Bud, the gradient is still 75, promising a wild journey of some continuous Class IIIs, and several boulder strewn slalom rapids that should not be run at high water.