WhiteWater Rafting in Three Rivers
On the Water
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos courtesy of Good Times Adventures
Amicaya Frediani has one of those names that seems to suit his job. It not only suggests adventure, but its phonetic cadence, the way it rolls off the tongue, mimics how a river might flow over boulders.
In 2016, Frediani started Good Times Adventures, a whitewater rafting company based out of Three Rivers. Originally from Santa Cruz, Frediani has been guiding rivers for 24 years, and the rafting veteran thinks the Kaweah River, though little known, is one of California’s best.
“I first worked on this river in ’98 with a company called Whitewater Voyages, and after that first trip I realized this is the river I want to be on every spring,” explains Frediani. “So I’ve made a point to be here. I fell in love not just with the river, but also the town. It’s one of the only places in the Sierras where you’re in the foothills at about 700-foot elevation and looking straight up at an 11,000-foot peak covered in snow. It’s gorgeous.”
According to Frediani, the county administers only eight permits to operate on the river, “but they’ve been occupied for however long until one opened up last spring,” says Frediani. “So I jumped on it.”
The timing might not have been perfect, with California on the heels of a historic drought, but Frediani says last season was better than expected.
“I’ve worked on this river long enough and I know how the seasons go. We just came out of four really bad years where there was no season at all, and maybe only a week of raftable days,” he explains. “So last year wasn’t bad.”
If last year wasn’t bad, then this season could prove one of the best, following an unusually wet winter.
“We’re going to have great flows from April on, and an extended high-water season, so if you’re looking for a real challenge and you’ve been on a Class 4 and want to step it up, then high water is pretty exciting,” says Frediani.
In the rafting world, a river is broken into five categories, with the first class being the easiest. “Class 1 is basically flat moving water,” explains Frediani, while a Class 5 he calls “the top run on the ladder, extremely difficult, and with real dangerous swims if you fall out of the boat.”
The Kaweah River is a Class 4, though Frediani adds, “it’s a step beyond the Class 4s in the state. I’ve been on most every partially run river in the state, and I can attest that as far as Class 4 runs go, this river is a notch above. It’s not a Class 5, so it takes a little bit of the edge off, so for folks not necessarily ready to go full out, it’s still challenging and fun.”
Good Times Adventures offers three trips ranging in cost from $50 to $130 per person. The Fun Run is a shorter, Class 2 trip for beginners, and both the three-quarter and full-day trips take rafters through Kaweah’s Class 4 rapids.
Rafters meet at the Kaweah River Trading Company, “and from there we gear up and get ready, and get shuttled upstream, about 10 miles, it just depends on the water level,” says Frediani.
The full-day trip begins just below the Sequoia Park entrance and runs to Lake Kaweah, and includes a lunch provided by Anne Lang’s Emporium.
“So with shuttle and lunch, you’re looking at about a five-hour trip,” says Frediani, “though sometimes when the water is real high we move through pretty quick.”
Thanks to this year’s heavy rains, Kaweah’s rafting season could extend through August, whereas last season, Frediani’s final trip down the river was June 21. He expects high water to peak between May and early June, though “it’s anyone’s guess how long the entire season will go. Kaweah is a free-flowing river, and there’s no dam upstream controlling the flow, so it’s just how the snow melts and what Mother Nature brings us.”
This year she looks to provide a good season, though Frediani points out that many valley natives don’t realize there’s even a season.
“They really are surprised and honestly have no idea it’s up here,” he says. “It is a short season, so I understand that some people miss it.”
Still, says Frediani, there’s no thrill quite like racing down a river. “Even if it’s a Class 2, there’s just a real sense of satisfaction to see the river canyon like that, just floating along.”
Good Times Adventures • (800) 250-5227
Kaweah White Water Adventures • (559) 740-8251
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