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HomeRafting - South Fork of the American River

South Fork of the American River

Raft on Middle American River

River Map

There are many reasons the South Fork of the American is the most popular river for rafting in California. It is easily approachable from either Lake Tahoe or the population centers of Sacramento and the Bay Area. The season is typically long, running from April or May through September. Plus it's got a great combination of beauty, excitement, and fun for most ages. The commercial operations have formed a symbiotic relationship with the river that allows maximum interaction with minimal environmental harm, too. Much of the shoreline is owned by the different outfits for overnight camping or lunch stops and these areas are much more aesthetic than the stray home or cattle grazing areas. Given the popularity of the river you can assume it will be crowded during a Summer weekend. Almost all outfits will have discounted mid-week packages. The South Fork is made up of two class III+ runs, and a third which is the class II portion from anywhere below Troublemaker to anywhere above and including Greenwood Access.
The Gorge Run - Photos -The Gorge Run starts anywhere from American River Resort to Greenwood Access or below and runs to Folsom Lake at Salmon Falls. The upper portion consists of class II rapids with pools between giving lots of time for games and swimming. There are several places where in ideal conditions you can jump off rocks into the river although. The highlights of the Gorge Run include Swimmer's Rapid and Gorilla Rock (both if there's enough water) as well as Satan's Cesspool (flash sequence) and Hospital Bar (flash sequence)
Of special note about the commercial outfits offering excursions on the American River is the camping. It is abundant, and it is usually free. I'm not talking free with a two day rafting trip. I'm talking free the night before a 1 day trip usually, and in some cases free the night before and after a 1 day trip. July 26th I started looking for a place to camp for two nights starting July 28th. There was nothing available in Tahoe anywhere near water. But since I was looking midweek there was plenty on the American River near and in Coloma. The options range from spartan to deluxe. Be sure to find out what kind of cooking options you will have. I have showed up with coolers of food and no reasonable way to cook it. At the other end of the spectrum was a 2-day trip with Whitewater Excitement with more excellent food included than we could eat. Our tents were waiting for us when we arrived. The grassy campsites located on the American River are awesome.
Hot Rafting Tips -
1. With young kids (9 and under), rent or buy a splash jacket to keep them warm on the river. Every young kid I have been on any rafting trip with got cold in extended rapids. They don't expend energy paddling, they sit in the middle and get drenched. In a kayak they are likely in front of you, keeping you dry. If they get cold the fun is gone for them and likely for you too. Get them a splash jacket.
2. Private Boaters beware of Public River Access Parking - Smash and Grab robberies are not uncommon at the public river access lots. Take some advice from a victim. DO NOT LEAVE VALUABLES IN YOUR CAR. Leave your windows open. Try and separate your car from other cars, they want to smash and rifle as many as they can as quickly as they can.


Gorge Run Photos
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Chili Bar Run Photos
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