Kids, families and beginners have made the South Fork of the American River one of the most popular rivers in North America. You get just the right mix of all the things people love about California whitewater rafting – exciting rapids, beautiful scenery, interesting history and a location close to the San Francisco Bay Area, Lake Tahoe and Sacramento.

Sara and Scott’s ability with the boats was amazing and we felt safe, even as we were thrilled through the rapids. I especially appreciated how they told us what to expect before each big rapid. It allowed me to know what to do to help the boat and enjoy the ride.

Rachelle & Michael

The Most Popular River in the West

The South Fork American River truly does offer something for everyone. Known to be the most popular commercial whitewater rafting destination in the west, you are sure to find an array of visitors, boaters and history. Depending on what suits your fancy, the South Fork offers half day trips, full day trips and even overnight trip options. Browse through all of our South Fork rafting trips to determine which section of the river best fits your style of adventure.

South Fork Rafting Trips

Express Trips

Meet time: 1PM
Duration: 10.5 miles

Perfect for those with limited time and looking to get their whitewater fix. Enjoy a shorter rafting trip focused on whitewater excitement. These wonderful express trips last approximately fourhours, including shuttle time.

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Chili Bar Run

Meet time: 8AM
Duration: 10.5 miles

Action on this stretch of river starts immediately with Meatgrinder, the longest, most technical rapid on the South Fork American River. Continuing through the canyon Class III rapids until the river mellows to a fun, relaxing float through the historic Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park where you will stop for a hearty lunch prepared by your guides. During this section you can have a chance to learn to guide the raft, swim in the river or just enjoy the conversation with your raft-mates. Chili Bar is a morning trip and we are usually off the river by mid-afternoon.

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Gorge Run

Meet time: 11AM
Duration: 10.5 miles

Unlike the Chili Bar Run, the Gorge Run begins with about an hour of mellow Class II rapids. This enables paddlers to hone their paddling skills and grow accustomed to being on the river. An excellent choice for first-timers, guests will stop halfway downstream for a riverside lunch. While taking a break to eat and swim a bit, you may hear the roar of Class III rapids just around the bend. After lunch, the river canyon narrows into the granite-walled ‘Gorge’ where guests will experience a series of continuous Class III rapids including Satan’s Cesspool and Hospital Bar! Your day is finished when you reach Folsom Lake, where our shuttles will greet you with a cold beverage and a ride back to the River Center.

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Full River

Meet time: 8AM
Duration: 21 miles

Combine the Chili Bar and Gorge runs and you have done the Full River! This lengthy 21-mile day is the most California whitewater rafting bang for your buck, but not for the faint of heart! You will paddle the action-packed 10+ miles of the Chili Bar whitewater rapids, stopping at the River Center to rest, refuel, and recharge with a hearty lunch. Then you hop back in the boat and continue with the exhilarating whitewater of the Gorge!

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South Fork 2 Day

Meet time: 11AM
Duration: 21 miles total (over two days)

Not only will you get to enjoy two days of California whitewater rafting, you’ll also have the pleasure of staying in our exceptional river camp. We’ll do all the cooking and cleaning so you can relax with a good book, enjoy a game of volleyball, or just sit and watch the sun set over the hills. Our guides will amaze you with their culinary delights. After a scrumptious dinner designed to satisfy combined with our delicious Dutch-Oven Dessert, you can tell stories by the light of the campfire or gaze at the stars until the river lulls you to sleep. In the morning you will wake with the sun to a sizzling breakfast before departing for a second exhilarating day of whitewater rafting on the river.

When booking, select the first date of your desired range to book a two-day trip. 

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South Fork/Middle Fork 2 Day

Meet time: 11AM
Duration: 28.5 miles

Experience the best of both worlds! Beginning with a day of rafting on the South Fork American River, fine tune your skills on day one as you tackle Class II-III rapids. Enjoy an overnight stay at the River Center with home-cooked meals and comfortable accommodations, eagerly anticipating the next day’s challenge: Class IV! Bright and early on day two, we shuttle you to the Middle Fork American River for a wild and scenic Class IV wilderness trip. Experience the best whitewater California has to offer – in only two days!

When booking, select the first date of your desired range to book a two-day trip. 

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Looking for a bit more excitement?

The Middle Fork American River’s Class IV rapids may be a better option…

» Check out Middle Fork trips here