The Lower American River is heavily dam-controlled. Directly upstream is Folsom Dam, one of many such hydroelectric and flood control facilities on the American River. The dam makes flows on the Lower American very reliable–even at “fish flow” you’ll be able to get out on the water.
Lower American River Flow Graph
Don’t be lured into a false sense of security though. Even during summer, the river has powerful currents and hidden hazards like brush, trees, and submerged rocks. During winter storms water levels can rise and fall quickly and the current gets much stronger. When the snow melts in the spring the water is also higher and temperatures drop considerably. Sorry to sound like your mother, but lots of people forget these basic rules and get into trouble on the Lower American each year so remember: always wear a quality life jacket and use common sense. Oh, and brush your teeth, too.
Winter Flow Tip
Although the Lower American is most popular for summer float trips, there are typically flows in this section year-round. Check before you go in the spring to make sure that flows aren’t too high, and if you are jonesing for some river time in the winter, head to San Juan Hole for a good surf session.