Tips and Frequently Asked Questions
Lots of questions, lots of answers
If it is your first time, you probably have a lot of questions about rafting on the Stanislaus River. Please browse our FAQ's, and click on any questions that you want explained in further detail.
Make sure you wear the right clothes: pretend you are going to the beach, but wear shoes that stay attached to your feet (ideally not flip flops). Bring plenty of snacks and drinks (you'll be out there for 4+ hours). Bring sunscreen. Going on a busy weekend? Go on the Orange Blossom trip or check in at 9:00 or 9:30AM to avoid the crazy crowds. Bring a smile and a good attitude and be prepared for a really AWESOME day!
Remember that you will be on the water for around 4 hours, so plan accordingly. Some common items are: sunscreen, water and snacks, a small ice chest (they fit easily on the raft), sunglasses that either have a leash or that you do not mind losing, a hat or visor, and clothing that can get wet.
Do not bring glass bottles. Do not bring coolers above 60 quarts. Do not bring hard alcohol. Do not bring any pets (this is an adventure activity, and while some pets might be able to handle it, most absolutely freak out when going through rapids, and not in a good way). Don’t bring an expensive pair of sunglasses, an expensive watch, or an expensive cell phone onto the boat. A good guideline is: if you can’t stand losing it, don’t bring it.
Drinking alcohol on the Stanislaus River is (for now) legal. That being said, you are on a river. You could end up in the water. We at Sunshine would prefer our guests to not drink.
On the Knights Ferry section, you are allowed a maxmium of TWO 12-packs per raft (yes, 24 cans). You are allowed ONE 60-quart cooler (or smaller). Hard alcohol and glass bottles are not allowed.
Alcohol is NOT allowed on the Orange Blossom to Oakdale, family-friendly float.
Children need to be 5 or older to raft at normal flows between 150-1299CFS.
Children need to be 7 or older to raft at high flows (1300CFS+)
Children need to be 10 or older to kayak.
Check out our https://www.raftadventure.com/stanislaus-river-flows/ page for updated flow information.
Our last weekend of operation in 2023 will be September 9th and 10th. We will not be open after this in 2023.
Parking at the Knights Ferry Recreation Area is $10 per car, and can be paid at the kiosk upon arrival. Parking areas are under surveillance from either Army Corp or rafting staff. Rafters will need to park in the rafters’ parking lot after they check in at their pre-determined check-in location.
During your float trip, there is one main area that is clearly marked where you can stop on the side of the river: Horseshoe Park, which is on river right, and is about 4 miles into the trip. The rest of the land on the sides of the rivers is private, and stopping on that land is considered trespassing. Groups that trespass during their trip can face fines, citations, and possibly more serious consequences, including arrest.
No! We don’t mix groups, so the group you book with is the group that is in your boat. While we do suggest that you bring at least 4 people in your group, we won’t ever make you share a boat with participants that are not under your same reservation. Most of our boats are 8-person boats that are 13' long. We do have a handful of 10-person boats that are only for groups of 9 or 10.
Absolutely! This trip is good for ages 5 and up, so do feel free to bring the kiddos along. If you are going during June, July, and August on a weekend we highly recommend the Orange Blossom to Oakdale trip, as it attracts a more mellow crowd, and the trip ends at a commercial center with a Dutch Bros. and pizza! If you want to go on the Knights Ferry to Orange Blossom on a peak Saturday, we recommend checking in at either 9:00 or 9:30AM, to beat the party-centric groups.
Lastly, remember that while kids love the trip, they usually don't love to help you paddle. Make sure you have at least 2 good (adult) paddlers in each raft, and if you have a group of 9 or 10 with a handful of kids, we highly recommend opting for a 10-person boat so that you can consolidate paddling power!
Groups trips (groups of 10-200 or more) are a common sight on the Stanislaus River, so don't get overwhelmed!
For large groups we can help in a number of ways:
a) We can set up group pricing so that you are getting an awesome deal.
b) We can set up payment methods so that everyone pays for their own spot, either online or over the phone. You don't have to track down everyone's payments!
c) We can actually arrange transportation through Delta Charter Bus. We can come grab your group (groups of 30+ usually), and take you to the river, then take you back home at the end of the day. Fees do apply for group transportation.
d) We can apply our 35+ years of customer service to help you make plans, communicate with the group, get them the info they need, and make sure they have an excellent day on the water.
Big groups are a big part of what we do, so if you need help setting up a large party, don't be shy- give us a call at 800-829-7238!
We are open from late May until mid-September.
In May and September, we are open on weekends. In 2023 we will be open until September 10th.
In June, July, and August we are normally open 4-5 days per week.
Even when open, reservations are required, so make sure to book online or call ahead of time.
Sunshine Rafting Adventures’ trip is designed for people in good health. Although the trip is mellow enough for a wide range of ages, it is still an outdoor activity, and as such, there is always a certain element of risk present. For this reason, we reserve the right to turn away any participants we deem unfit (although this is highly unusual). Reasons one may be turned away are outlined below.
All Participants Must:
- Sign a liability waiver.
If a participant is under 18 years of age a parent or legal guardian must also sign the waiver.
- Be able to fit into a life jacket. Our jacket sizes range from small child to chest sizes of 56 inches. If a participant cannot fit in a life jacket with a chest-size of 56 inches, they must bring their own Coast Guard approved life jacket.
- Be at least 5 years of age to raft, and 10 years of age to kayak.
- Be in good health and prepared to participate in an active day of rafting.
- Be able to comfortably swim 100 feet with the aid of a life jacket.
You cannot participate if:
- You are pregnant
- You have had a recent injury or have an existing injury that could be re-aggravated in an outdoor recreation activity.
- Have epilepsy or a seizure disorder that does not permit you to drive.
- Have hemophilia or are currently taking high doses of blood thinning medication.
- Have a known health condition that requires immediate medical attention in the event of an emergency.
- Are under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medications that limit your physical abilities.
- Have an innate phobia of moving water.
Yes, there are restrooms on the trip. There are formal, park restrooms at the beginning point at Knights Ferry, the mid-way point at Horseshoe Park, and at the end point at Orange Blossom Park. Do note these are not Sunshine Rafting's restrooms; these are public park restrooms.
Water temperatures in season range from 55-60 degrees depending on flow and time of year.
Water depths range from 2 feet to 20 feet deep depending on where you are on the water. Typically you will find more shallow water where the water is moving quickly, and deeper water where the river has slowed down.
This is a class I and class II (usually on the easier end of class II) river. The river rafting rating system goes as follows:
Class I:Moving water with a few riffles and small waves. Few or no obstructions.
Class II:Easy rapids with smaller waves, clear channels that are obvious without scouting. Some maneuvering might be required.
This is not whitewater rafting. This is much more on the mellow, scenic, and relaxing end of the rafting spectrum!
On weekdays, rafting trips start between 10AM and 11:30AM. Kayaking trips start at 11AM.
On weekends, rafting trips start between 9AM and noon, every half hour. Kayaking trips start at 11AM.
For our Orange Blossom to Oakdale section, trips start between 9:30AM and 11:30AM on Saturdays and Sundays (the only days we have that trip available).
Most of our trips start in the historic town of Knights Ferry, which is about an hour and a half to two hours east of the Bay Area.
The closest address is 18000 Covered Bridge Road. Once you get within a couple hundred feet of this address, keep your eyes open for the "Rafters' Parking Lot" signs!
Prices for trips do vary on a number of factors such as date of the trip, number of people in your party, the type of trip you want to book, etc. Assume most trips are going to cost between $40-$48 per person for each day of rafting, and know that weekends are more expensive, and are busier, than weekdays. Consult our pricing page or booking pages for a full breakdown. Group discounts are available!
YES, you really do! Most weekends are booked up in advance (sometimes 2-3 weeks). Last minute reservations are accepted if space permits. A 50% deposit will hold your reservation date. The full balance is due fourteen days prior to your trip. You can reserve online or by calling 800-829-7238.
This trip is NOT guided. There will not be a guide in your raft.
Because this trip is beginner friendly (class I with one small class II rapid), a guide is not needed. At most flows, this is a very mellow, lazy river float trip, which is easy to navigate as long as you have at least 2 decent paddlers.
Our Sunshine Newsletter, or Sunshine Facebook will let you know of upcoming specials and events, including half price weekday trip dates!
Please understand that when we accept your reservation that we are planning for staff and provisions and are holding a space on your trip, often turning away others.
Cancellations within 14 days of a trip will receive no refund.
Cancellations outside of 14 days of a trip are eligible for a refund.
Full refunds result if Sunshine Adventures, Inc. deems it necessary to cancel a trip due to unforeseen hazards, insufficient bookings, etc. Trips usually run rain or shine.
We do not allow pets on our rafts, for a few reasons. The main reason is that most animals are not good around/in moving water. They don't understand when/where to go, not to swim into dangerous strainers, etc. In short, animals can easily drown in moving water, even when it is shallow, and not moving very quickly.
We do not make exceptions to this rule. We know that your pet is extremely good around water, but the answer is still that pets are not allowed.
Common lodging areas in our area include Lake Tulloch Campground (209-881-3410) and Valley Oak Campground (209-881-3517). A full list of local lodgings can be found on our lodgings page.
If you have an interest in joining the Sunshine Rafting Adventures staff you can call our office at 1-800-829-7238.
Sunshine trips are run by permission of US Army Corps of Engineers – Sacramento District, US Bureau of Reclamation – Tracy, USDA.
We do have insurance. We have general insurance to run rafting trips, auto insurance to run commercial vehicles, and workers compensation insurance for our employees. We are a fully-formed and mature company that operates under the rules laid out by the Army Corps of Engineers concessionaires agreement.
While not expected, tips are a nice way to show your appreciation for exceptional customer service. Our employees take great pride in making your day special.
More than 95% of our customers just fill their liabilities waivers out once they arrive. If you'd like to get yours done beforehand, access our pdf here: printable liability waiver.
Filling out a liability waiver beforehand is most important for minors that are participating without a parent or legal guardian. In these cases, please fill it out for your minor, and make sure they bring the form with them on the day of the trip.
Making a Reservation
So you've taken a look, you like what you see, and you want to bring some friends and family out to go rafting! Now what do you do? Making a reservation is the first step, and Sunshine makes it easy to plan for you and your group! Just click book now on the top right menu, or call us at 800-829-7238!
Getting More Information
You know the trip sounds awesome, but you want some expert insight into the trip. How do you get that? Just call us at 800-829-7238 or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd be happy to give you feedback that's been crafted with over 35 years in the industry!
Do you have a large group of eight or more and would like request a trip? If you know your trip details, planned dates, and number of people in your group, you can get started right now.