» American River Rafting

Northern California’s Most Popular Whitewater and Kayaking Rivers

American River Rafting

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Forks of the American River:

The American River is one of the most popular and heavily rafted river systems in the United States. It’s also one of the most versatile: you literally have options ranging from strapping a cooler onto an inner tube or inflatable alligator and virtually passing out on the Lower American, to doing hair-raising drops on the North Fork’s Giant Gap section. Somewhere on the mellow end of in between the two is that family classic, the South Fork of the American with its class III rapids and famous Gold-Rush era history. The Middle Fork of the American River is also very popular–class IV rapids like Tunnel Chute and Kanaka are interspersed with stretches of calm class II that invite relaxation and appreciation of the canyon.

Lower American River Rafting & Kayaking

Lower American River:

The Lower American River is so mellow it’s a stretch to call it a “whitewater river.” Flowing through Sacramento, its class II water begs for laid back float trips, water-fights, and riverside picnics–high adventure it is not. Do-it-yourself-ers will appreciate the challenge of renting gear, arranging shuttles, and packing lunch for a self-supported day on the water.

South Fork American River Rafting & Kayaking

South Fork American:

The South Fork is like the Beatles of the river world–everyone knows and loves it. It’s that classic. Ok, it may get crowded in the summer, but no one can resist its iconic class III rapids and local landmarks like the lollipop tree and Gorilla Rock. Thousands of people paddle through Troublemaker, float past the historic sawmill in Coloma, and surf “the Dog every summer and love it–chances are you will too.

Middle Fork American River Rafting & Kayaking

Middle Fork American River:

Fancy a step up from class III? Head to the Middle Fork, where 18 miles of whitewater rushes through a secluded canyon. Just stay in the boat at Tunnel Chute–a swim there has been likened to being “flushed down a toilet.” Overnight trips on the Middle Fork are popular because they give you more time to hang out, hike up side canyons, and play frisbee on the beach.

North Fork American River Rafting & Kayaking

North Fork American River:

For trips on the North Fork of the American River you have to strike while the iron is hot–as a free-flowing river, it has a brief season of class IV whitewater when the Sierra snow melts in the spring. These higher flows are what create the challenging rapids at places like Chamberlain Falls and Staircase. When the snowmelt stops, the river becomes too low to raft or kayak.