Whitewater Rafting on the American River

The South, Middle, and North Forks of the American River offer a wide variety of accessible whitewater rafting options for beginner to advanced paddlers located just one to two hours from Sacramento.

The South Fork is California's most popular rafting trip. Located near Hwy 49 between Interstate 80 and State Hwy 50 near the site where gold was first discovered in California in 1848. This river offers consistent waterflows April thru October. Flows are higher during Spring runoff in April and May. This Class III run is suitable for beginner-intermediate paddlers. The navigable section is a total of 21 miles and is usually floated in two sections, the Upper "Chili Bar" run and the lower "Gorge" section.

The Middle fork lies slightly farther North with a put-in spot near Foresthill, CA. The Middle Fork American is a Class III-IV run suitable for Intermediate paddlers or motivated beginners. Floating through a 2000' deep wilderness canyon, Its 23 miles can be run as 1, 2, or 3-day excursion.

The North Fork is a spring runoff river that is only navigable in April and May. Its technical Class IV-IV rapids are best suited for Intermediate-Advanced paddlers. Spring in the North Fork Canyon is a colorful spectacle of crystal clear water flowing through green hillsides blanketed with wildflowers.

Several rafting outfitters including All-Outdoors, Current Adventures, Mother Lode River Center, Tributary Whitewater Tours, and O.A.R.S. offer commercial trips down all three forks. Several are notable in respect to eco-tourism, a history of river conservation leadership, education and sustainable practices.

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Latitude: 38.7999014 Longitude: -120.890216 Elevation: 765 ft
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Typical Class of Water

The South Fork has Class III+, Middle Fork Class IV, North Fork Class IV+

Best Seasons for Experiencing

Spring, Summer and Fall

Access Points

Coloma, Foresthill, and Auburn, CA. Accessible from highways 50, 80, and 49.

ADA Accessibility Notes

ETC offers river trips specifically designed to serve clients with disabilities.


The American River sounds like it would make for a fun rafting trip. I wonder if my husband would want to do of the 1-3 day excursions. I think it would definitely make for a fun summer adventure!

alena, 5/9/2016

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