South Fork American River: Gorge
Best Beginner / Intermediate Rafting in Northern CA
Scenic Canyon Through Historic California Gold Country
Everyone Paddles And Should Be In Good Physical Shape
Lots of Swimming Opportunities
No Experience Necessary
Delicious Lunch Included
On this page:
About the Trip Full Day Class 2-3 Excitement
Easily accessed from Lake Tahoe, Sacramento, and the Bay Area, the South Fork of the American River Gorge Run is a wonderful river experience for everyone in your group to enjoy. This run is perfect for beginners and experienced boaters due to many splashy Class II and Class III rapids. The run starts off leisurely as the Class II’s build up to the Class III gorge. Our favorite Class III rapids include the house size boulders in “Fowlers Rock,” the exciting drop in “Satans Cesspool,” and the famous “Hospital Bar” wave. The gorgeous golden hills, delicious lunch, and swimming opportunities are all reasons this run is one of the most popular in the world!
After booking, check your confirmation email which has comprehensive trip information.
- We will see you at our Gorge Meeting Location at 10:00 AM at 4531 Salmon Falls Rd, Pilot Hill, Ca 95664
- Park, check in, fill out any outstanding waivers, use the restroom, etc. Leave valuables at home and and personal items in your vehicles. Car keys can be left with our office staff or in your seat on our shuttle bus while you’re on the river.
- Hop on our Tahoe Whitewater Shuttle Bus for a 10 minute drive to the river.
- Gear Up & Safety Talk! You’ll be issued a Personal Flotation Device, Paddle, and Helmet. Everyone will participate in our Safety Talk to discuss river hazards and safety protocols.
- Meet your guide! Your guide will chat about paddling and give instructions as you hop in your raft and start the tour.
- Enjoy the river! You'll be on the river for about 4 hours. We provide a gourmet, riverside lunch near the historic gold discovery site in Coloma, CA.
- We'll shuttle you back to the meeting / parking location.
This is the perfect beginner - intermediate trip. Ages 7+ and previous rafting experience is not necessary. Rafting is a team effort: everyone will participate and is expected to paddle.
Do I need to know how to swim?
It is recommended but not mandatory. We provide a helmet and a Type V, US Coast Guard approved personal flotation device, designed to float you on your back, high in the water.
What do I need to wear?
We have packing lists for you to review for each of our different trips. It can be significantly colder during March-May so we encourage our guests to always be prepared.
It’s my first time rafting, do I need experience?
We encourage previous experience for our more difficult, Class IV Whitewater Rafting Trips. Feel free to call us with any concerns or questions about appropriate trips for your group.
Monday - Friday @ 9:00 AM
Some Weekend Dates
April 20 - September, flow depending
- Helmet, Paddle, Personal Flotation Device (aka PFD or lifejacket)
- Professional River Guide in each raft
- Gourmet, riverside lunch
- Shuttle to and from our meeting/parking location
Our guides are the best in the business, prioritizing safety and guest experience. They love what they do and it shows through their passion for the area's history, geology and ecology. With experience on rivers around the globe, we know you'll enjoy your guide as much as we do.
Tahoe Whitewater's owner, Mike Miltner, pioneered commercial whitewater rafting on the Truckee River in the 1980's and 90's when government ordinances prohibited whitewater rafting on the Truckee. Mike fell in love with the Truckee River and began battling local, state, and federal opposition. Successful in his mission to share the Truckee, Mike paved the way for people to experience the beauty and adventure the Truckee River has to offer. And over 30 years now, Tahoe Whitewater has been sharing our love, experience, and knowledge of the area with guests.
No matter your group size, we will break you up into the appropriate number of boats after the safety talk. On the South Fork of the American River our rafts can take up to 6-8 guests + a guide.
We use 13', 14', and 16' rafts.
We start at our American River Headquarters where you’ll meet your guides for the day, you’ll find secure parking, clean restrooms, changing rooms, and picnic tables.
Meet at 10:00 AM at 4531 Salmon Falls Rd, Pilot Hill, Ca 95664
7.4 Highway 49 Bridge River Access. Parking under bridge is prohibited.
8.0 Henningsen-Lotus County Park River Access (funded by the Dept. of Boating and Waterways). Fees charged. Upstream and downstream from this park are small parcels of BLM public lands.
9.0 Camp Lotus River Access and Campground. Fees charged.
9.1 Barking Dog Class II.
10.6 Current Divider Class II+.
11.2 Highway Class II.
11.5 Greenwood Creek on river right. End of the Quiet Zone.
12.0 Cable Corner Class II.
12.2 BLM public land on river right is a recommended lunch/camping area with rest room facilities.
12.8 There are several lunch/camping sites (no facilities on BLM public lands between Hastings Creek and mile 13.4.)
15.8 Fowler's Rock Beginning of the Gorge. Class III-
16.2 Upper Haystack Canyon Class III
16.9 Satan's Cesspool Class III+
17.0 Deadman's Drop or Son of Satan's Class II+
17.6 Lower Haystack Canyon Class II+
17.7 BLM land to mile 18.1
18.1 Weber Creek enters on river left at mile
18.2 Bouncing Rock Class II+
18.6 Hospital Bar Class III
18.7 Recovery Room Class II+
19.4 Surprise Rapid. Class III
What to Expect From Booking to Rafting the North Fork American
After Making a Reservation
After your booking is complete, a confirmation email will be sent including a summary of your group size, date, river section, meeting time and location.
Online Waivers will be provided in your confirmation email. ALL participants must fill out waivers prior to the trip. Please fill these out before arriving.
A “Trip Details” PDF will be attached to your confirmation email containing:
- driving directions
- pack list
- other helpful info
On the River
This Beginner/ Intermediate whitewater river rafting trip is suitable for anyone looking for a fun day as action awaits on this historical trip through one of California’s most popular waterways! The South Fork of the American River cuts through the heart of the Coloma-Lotus Valley, a beautiful setting to start one of the most popular stretches of whitewater in the United States. Our Gorge Run offers 12 miles of river fun and excitement. The first hour of this trip is fairly easy, creating a perfect setting to learn all the basics of whitewater rafting. Large tranquil pools allow for ample swimming opportunities as the river leaders through the first half of the day. Lunch is served on a large natural beach with ample space to lay out and tan or enjoy a refreshing swim in the calm river. After Lunch is served, the river picks up speed as it enters the lower gorge. Most rapids on the trip are located in this lower section. By this point your guides have trained you and your crew to be a professional rafting team ready for anything. Rapids continually build, walls of water douse from all sides as laughter and cries of joy are heard between the wild waters. One after another the rapids continue until finishing in Folsom Reservoir where a tow out from a jet ski awaits. The South Fork American River- Gorge Run is a perfect trip for first time river runners because of its mellow start, beginner and intermediate rapids, and large waves toward the end. An enjoyable day awaits for you to come and discover this popular river.
Other Rafting Adventures
More Exciting Class 4 Trips
North Fork American River: Chamberlain Falls
Advanced Class IV
Highlights: Best Class IV Rafting in Northern CA, Crystal Clear Water, Steep Jungle Gorge, Easily Accessible from Tahoe, Sacramento, and the Bay Area
Hot Springs Trips
East Fork Carson River: Hangman’s Run
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Family Friendly Beginner Class 2
$120 – $130
Highlights: Natural Hot Springs, Wild West History, No Experience Necessary, Gourmet Riverside Lunch