South Fork of the American River

South Fork of the American River

South Fork of the American River
4.5
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This river is one of the most popular whitewater rafting and kayaking destinations in California.
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4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles42 reviews
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30
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12
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Frank H
8 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2023 • Friends
I've been visiting the area for over 25 years. The activities are mostly centered around a tiny town called Coloma, which incidentally has the historical distinction of being the epicenter of gold discovery in 1849 leading to the famed Gold Rush. The seasonally active town mainly caters to visitors to the South Fork of the American River which is one of North America's most popular whitewater destinations. Boasting countless outfitters for rafting, Coloma also features several RV-capable campsites along the water's edge as well as about a dozen small restaurants and cafes. Being a whitewater kayaker, this is my "neighborhood river" even though I drive 2.5 hours each way from the San Francisco Bay Area. The scent of wild foliage greets you as you drop into the valley from N. Shingle Road into town if you are traveling from the west via US 50. During the summer months, you will almost immediately notice vehicles carrying various forms of water-borne fun from bundles of colorful kayaks on roof-tops to the stacks of commercial 13-foot rafts on trailers. Along with them are the passionate river folk from all walks of life from weekend warriors intent on maximizing their days off from their day jobs to career paddlers whose entire existence revolves around the rushing of the river. Mixed in, especially near major holidays or when the thermometer bursts past 90F, are also families with teens and small children with inner tubes eager to be carried downstream. The South Fork also boasts some extensive trails that let you hike all the way down to Folsom Lake if you were so inclined. Along the way, you can find wild grapes and blackberries late summer. There are equestrian options as well as an outdoor historical museum run by the CA State Park. The Coloma Shuttle (run by the El Dorado County Air Board), which is capable of carrying both boats and passengers, services multiple stops along the full length of the river. Search their website for online reservations. The River Store is the local spot for providing paddling equipment and works in conjunction with Current Adventures for instruction. If you've ever wanted to try whitewater kayaking, they are your source. Check them out online.

For visiting paddlers, the river is composed of three sections. The upper section (aka Chilibar), is a 7.4 mile class III run that begins just below the Chilibar dam and ends at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park (MG) in Coloma. The middle section (aka C2G) is a 5.5 mile class II run that starts from MG and end at the Greenwood Creek BLM river access. From there the lower and final section (aka the Gorge) is a nearly 9 mile class III run with a steep gradient that ends at the Skunk Hollow SP near Folsom Late. For detailed information of river features go to the American Whitewater site. Locals are keen to give you the beta if you ask especially at the put-in and take-out spots as well as the River Store.

First-time and casual visitors for water recreation have the option of signing up with one of the many rafting outfitters in the area for class III-IV fun or float down on their own for some class I-II excitement. A word of caution for those who want to float on their own, the is water dam-controlled snow-melt. Even in the peak of the summer months, the water has the potential to be quite cold. Depending on the location, the current can range from barely perceptible to churning even in the class II C2G section. Tubes and floaties for beach and pool use are typically unsuitable for the river. River capable ones are availble for rent or purchase nearby. If unsure about the safety of your equipment, please do take the time to speak with the staff at the River Store, Lotus-Henningsen county park or the Marshall Gold Discovery SP. Life jackets, highly recommended even for strong swimmers, are available to borrow or to purchase locally. Your safety contributes to everyone's enjoyment of this beautiful gem in Northern California.

Most families or groups looking to tube for the first time or have kids can park at the Lotus-Henningsen County Park (fee), walk their tubes a quarter mile to the Highway 49 bridge and float down. More experienced tubers can hike a bit further to the Marshall Gold SP put-in spot a tiny bit further up Highway 49. Even more experienced tubers can consider ending their float at Camp Lotus, but that run requires more involved self-shuttling logistics and an additional fee to use the campsite. It is NOT recommended to float beyond Camp Lotus as the lower half of the C2G section boasts the more consequential rapids of the C2G section.

Also, the left bank between the Highway 49 bridge and Lotus-Henningsen County Park along Lotus Road is public and has many first-come-first-served locations to set up a picnic and swim. Again life jackets and supervision for children is a must at all times.

Visitors, please pack out your garbage and no open fires!
Written 11 July 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Dace S
3 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
May 2022
I used Whitewater excitement company and stayed in their camp sites right on the river!!! We loved every moment of it, great instructions and water jackets, food was exceptional, and we had Jorge for a guide - awesome!!! Pretty sure we are coming back!!! Thank you, guys, for great service and experience!
Written 5 June 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Happy vegan travel
San Francisco, CA78 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2019
Stayed at Camp Lotus and did the rafting the next day. The scenery was beautiful at every angle from the water. The rapids aren't too dangerous, so a young kid can also be on the boat. Fun family and group outing.
Written 6 August 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

DoloresJacoby.Let’sTravel.98368
West Palm Beach, FL9,969 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2018 • Friends
We were following the California Cheese Trail Map and happened on this beautiful part of the American River. Cars park before and after the river so people can take trails, explore the river and more. A beautiful part of California for outdoorsmen.
Written 24 September 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

kinderwaters
Philadelphia, PA8 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jan 2018 • Business
Exquisite hikes and views. The air quality is so crisp, I detoxed!
$10 parking fee for the day. I think it goes to the Parks . . . .
Written 9 February 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

mattkurth
McKinleyville, CA36 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2016 • Friends
This is a great river for whitewater rafting, swimming, hiking, biking or almost any other outdoor pursuit. The location is great for those traveling from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe. Highway 50 goes along the river the whole time.
Written 2 February 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

S0lange13
Los Angeles, CA183 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2016 • Solo
It's about 2 hrs. drive from Lake Tahoe to South Fork river (meeting point) and depends on traffic. So plan ahead if you're in that area. The trek in the river at that time in July is calm and suites all levels of rafting. Occasionally we hit some bumps with class 3 rapids but not all the time. That gives us time to enjoy the scenic route plus with an informative guide. We also passed the gold county/mine and its old glory along the river route. In some area where rapids are safe our guide allows us to jump over board in the river and float with the current which is a cool experience. I highly recommend this over Lake Tahoe Truckee River rafting. Good for all level or skills in rafting and just pure fun for everyone. There you have it, have a safe rafting.
Written 30 October 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

447bettym
Coloma, CA4 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2015 • Family
the river is beautiful and we see it every day. white water rafting is very popular in the summer and there are several camp grounds and rafting companies in the area.
Written 12 September 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Padma P
Fremont, CA42 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2016
We went with two kids, 12 and 9- the nine year old has autism and has anxiety. We called the company ahead of time and they were great. gave our family a raft and the guide was excellent, understanding and great with my kids.
it is an expensive day trip. we did the express 3 hour trip without the meal. starts at 12.30 , meet at Coloma/lotus and we return at 5.00 pm the raft will drop you near the reservoir and then come back by bus. per person $120 so that we spent a total of close to $500 that day , four tickets, gas money from Fremont Ca to Lotus Ca and then meals/snacks etc
Written 10 July 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

ZenDark30
Portland, OR2,482 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2016 • Friends
The Bureau of Land Management River Rangers rock. I was honored to tag along on one of their river patrol and clean-up days and let me tell you, they really do the dirty work. From cleaning toilets to collecting trash, they help keep the river safe and clean for the thousands of boaters that run the river each year.
Written 8 June 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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South Fork of the American River - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (2024) - Tripadvisor

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