Your adventure base camp for 45 years!

I did not want to miss the opportunity to compliment you and your staff on your well-run program. We felt safe in your hands. Your guides were knowledgeable and responsible (plus funny and charming!) If anyone ever asks me for an outfitter in your area, I will definitely recommend you. –Mary R.

See what others say about us! Read more REVIEWS from our guests.

Mother Lode River Center is a family owned and operated organization we affectionately call “MaLode” and which is now beginning its fifth decade. Many of our participants come back every year and are now personal friends. We consider them part of our MaLode extended family which includes many generations of guides, well wishers and fellow river lovers.  We cordially invite you to join us this season for another great year of outdoor adventure, fun and learning. Whatever your choice of program or activity, rest assured that we remain committed to doing everything possible to make your experience enjoyable, memorable and of the highest quality. Our guides, facilitators and educators all have one goal – to exceed your expectations and achieve 100% satisfaction!

We look forward to sharing our love of rivers and other wild places with you, and in the process to further the appreciation and preservation of these sacred places.

Looking forward to seeing you on the river,

Scott and Catherine Underwood, Penny, Scotty, Brian, Heather and the MaLode team                                  


A Few Reasons over 290,000 happy guests have chosen Mother Lode:

Best Safety Record

Mother Lode has 45 years and three million river miles of rafting experience with the best safety record in our industry.

Great River Guides who are also Facilitators and Educators

A safety conscious attitude, superb training, high levels of accomplishment in everything they do, these are objectively true of the Mother Lode crew. What is equally important, however, is that our participants love our staff and the customer service they provide. Whether it is Trip Advisor, Yelp or Facebook, the rave reviews say it all, the MaLode crew rocks!

Who are these guides? The special purpose of our company, to promote environmental education and conservation of California’s rivers, consistently attracts a highly sophisticated and diverse crew with deep roots in California. Demographically speaking, of our over 20 full-time guides in 2016, there was an even division between men and women, continuing Mother lode’s tradition of equal opportunity. All were US citizens with the majority being from California with a strong local representation as well. Among this group the majority have either graduated from college or are in college working toward degrees in fields of study that span the entire intellectual spectrum. The majority of these majors were in STEM including environmental science (5), medicine (1), physics (1), mathematics (1), neuroscience (1) and molecular biology (1). The remainder include recreation administration (2), philosophy (1), public policy (1), creative writing (2), the fine arts (2) and one outlier with degrees in both finance and landscape architecture (go Christie, our token Canuck!).

Should you conclude that college is the only avenue to MaLode, please reconsider. Some of our most accomplished guides and facilitators have followed other paths and their contributions are equally essential to our success. Several are second generation guides for whom guiding is a family tradition. They are all educated in the most important way of all, as human beings. Many have ranged the globe and can share tales of adventures in Europe, Africa, South America, India, Asia, New Zealand, Australia and even Antarctica. They are kayakers, rock climbers, surfers, snowboarders, mountain bikers and accomplished athletes of all kinds. They are also a tightly knit group of friends who make a fantastic team and all of whom share an intense curiosity about the natural world and a desire to share their passion for the outdoors with others. Every one is a superb role model for the families and youth that participate in our programs. The best part of your trip is likely to be your opportunity to get to know them.

How are they trained?  River guiding begins in guide school and Mother Lode’s is recognized as one of the finest. However, guide school is only the beginning. Before they guide their first commercial trip, like an airplane pilot, each guide must complete dozens of mentored trips until they are demonstrated to have the river skills, judgement and interpersonal abilities to be “checked off” to solo. All complete CPR and First Aid certification and most have more advanced training as Wilderness First Responders, EMTs or Paramedics. Unique to Mother Lode, all our guides are required to also be certified as Swiftwater Rescue Technicians through a recognized training organization such as Sierra Rescue. This training is similar to that which Fire or Police Rescue Squads complete. This allows them to respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies should they occur.

That’s Not All….

Multiple seasons of experience, high levels of intelligence, exceptional levels of physical ability combined with great interpersonal skills-  all these define what it means to be a Mother Lode guide.  But it doesn’t stop there! Most Mother Lode guides are also trained as ropes course facilitators and environmental educators. The facilitator shouting encouragement while belaying you on the Leap of Faith in the morning is likely to be guiding you through rapids in the afternoon. If you want to know about a bird, rock, tree or cloud formation, ask your guide! It is likely they shared this information with someone as an educator in our Outdoor Education Program in the Spring or Fall.

Our Amazing Camp….with on-site Challenge Ropes Course!

Mother Lode is one of California’s two original river camps which we have quintupled in size over the past 5 decades to become the South Fork’s largest outfitter owned river camp. Although clean bathroom facilities with solar heated showers and flush toilets have been standard for many decades, each season we gradually improve the camp’s facilities by adding something new. This year there is a second 30 foot diameter yurt, more tent cabins and we will soon be announcing an exciting new element in the Ropes Course.  Meanwhile, such sources of natural charm as our unique river stone pathways, the Nisenan grinding holes that mark the site of an ancient Native American camp, “The Island” and other favorite riverside nooks remain undisturbed. These are some of the things you will discover here:

Wilderness ambiance with the comforts of home! Our camp is quiet, nature based and private and available only to our guests. Our goal is that you not be subjected to the drone of RV generators, light pollution that obscures the stars, or raucous drunken partiers. Frodo Baggins would be comfortable here and probably think he had found the Shire!

20 gorgeous riverside acres graced with heritage oaks which shade our multiple areas of verdant cool grass ranging in size from small and intimate, to large and spacious. We can accommodate virtually all sizes of groups but respect each group’s privacy by limiting not only our overall occupancy, but also the number of campers in each of our 6 distinctly separate group camping areas. This improves the quality of the experience for everyone.

1/2 mile of riverfront with multiple charming eddies all connected by our Nature Trail. Explore, then sit and chill as you watch the sunset and listen to the river.

On Site Challenge Ropes Course provides additional thrills when added to rafting and camping and is a Mother Lode exclusive! Nowhere else on the West Coast can you combine ropes challenge course team building and group activities with rafting like you can at MaLode.

Healthy, delicious meals served from our two separate but complete commercial kitchens. This allows us to cater to the needs of multiple groups individually. We also have two other “wilderness kitchens” with sinks, hot running water, stoves and refrigeration that we rent to Scouts and other responsible groups so they can do their own thing without bringing everything from home.

Tent camping choices abound: From pitching your own tent as an individual, to comfortable canvas tents you can stand up in, you choose.

  • Two 40 person groups are easily accommodated in their own separate camping areas, each of which has platform canvas tent cabins. These tents are artfully sited with plenty of space between. Cots are standard and foam mattresses are available for your comfort.
  • Each camp has a separate bathroom facility with hot showers, flush toilets and changing areas.

Our unique “glamour cabin” platform tents with actual beds and furniture offer both more luxury and privacy.

Cabin and Eco-House: Not a tent camper? No problem…

  • Our charming one bedroom, one bath cabin has A/C, heat and a full kitchen.
  • Our 2 bedroom, 2 bath Eco-house has all the above, plus solar power,  and a patio with BBQ.

Yurts: Our two 30-foot in diameter Pacific Yurts are the highest quality made with insulation and wooden floors to provide indoor space for meetings, yoga, meditation and group sleeping for youth. Each is located near a bathroom for your convenience.

Camp Store: Our 16 foot diameter “greeting yurt” houses our check in, photo area and camp store for those last minute items such as Chums, a disposable waterproof camera, even sleeping bags if you forgot yours or just flew in from out of town.

Sustainable Practices Program features solar electric power and solar water heating, and the use of waste vegetable oil (WVO) based biodiesel for fuel. We strive toward achieving the lowest carbon footprint of any river company.

Organic garden– we grow tasty veggies on site and the garden is a perfect spot to sit and watch the hummingbirds dart to and fro.

Our programs are super fun, educational and meaningful too!

The programs described below are all designed to be hands-on, educational, and equally important, engaging and fun. Each represents a challenge that is river based and when combined they act synergistically in important ways. There are four basic categories: whitewater rafting, challenge ropes, outdoor education and conservation/sustainable practices.  Each program begins with “challenge by choice” and ends with accomplishments of various kinds. The essence of challenge is that it pushes individual and group comfort zones. It is vital that participants understand the nature of the physical and mental risks they take, and choose to participate willingly in an atmosphere of support and safety. Our company has the finest safety record in our industry, and safety is always our first priority. It is also essential that our activities are fun…we love to have fun!

ECOS Diagram