1. Experience and Safety

As one of the original rafting companies in California, Mother Lode has over 40 years and 2 million river miles of experience in providing fun, safe river trips for over 270,000 satisfied guests.

We have always been at the leading edge of the whitewater industry. In the 1980s we became the first company to require all our guides to have Rescue 3 Swiftwater Technician I certification, raising the bar for safety training. Our safety record, 40 years and several million river miles without a life threatening injury, remains the finest in the river industry.

2. Best Pricing and Value — Guaranteed

Mother Lode has always provided the best river trip available at a fair price. We are so confident that you cannot find a rafting trip of comparable value and features for a lesser price — we guarantee that if you find it, we will match their price. Just provide written documentation in the form of an invoice or advertisement, and if it is apples to apples, we are determined not to be undersold!

Furthermore, Mother Lode enjoys among the highest customer return rates in the whitewater industry (86%). We are confident that you can look forward to a truly memorable river experience that will exceed your expectations.

3. Luxurious Private Campground

In the 1970s Mother Lode became one of the first companies to commit to owning its own river camp. This facility has quintupled in size over the years, is now over 19 acres with half a mile of riverfront, and is the largest river camp owned by an outfitter on the South Fork American. There are large areas of soft grass, towering heritage oaks for shade, canvas tent cabins, solar powered hot showers and flush toilets, three spacious commercial kitchens (one of which can be rented to prepare your own meals), charming river stone walkways and walls, a sand volleyball court, horseshoe rings, tons of lawn game sets, and an unequaled list of amenities for your comfort. The camp is available exclusively to our guests and can be viewed on our Camp Tour.

4. Tasty Meals!

Great food is also a longstanding MaLode tradition, and it is easy to appreciate that each guide is an accomplished cook. From the aroma of fresh brewed coffee in the morning, to mouth-watering meals prepared from ingredients that are always fresh, beautifully presented and often include organically grown vegetables from our organic garden, eating well is guaranteed at Mother Lode.

5. Zip-Line and Ropes Course

Mother Lode’s on-site Zip Line and Challenge Ropes Course, provide additional dimensions for your river experience available nowhere else on the South Fork American River. Adding a Ropes Course or Zip Line to Rafting markedly enhances the river trip experience for groups of adults and youth alike.

6. Exceptional Guides and Staff

Our guides are friendly, fun to be around and enjoy sharing their legendary love of rivers with you. Respected on the river as outstanding whitewater boaters, MaLode guides are carefully chosen, extensively trained, mentored and challenged to meet exceptional performance standards at every level.

When California whitewater all began back in the 1960s, MaLode guides were there, helping to establish paddle-guiding as the dominant method of navigating California Rivers. Our crew, which has always included lots of women guides, helped open commercial guiding opportunities to women and were instrumental in creating an atmosphere at Mother Lode that is particularly family friendly and accessible to all.

In the year 2000, MaLode guides achieved another unique milestone. Each full-time guide is now also an instructor in our Outdoor Education Program and a facilitator for our Challenge Ropes Course. These experiences give them outstanding natural history interpretive skills and access to scores of games and other ways of making your river trip exceptionally fun and engaging.

Although it is not a requirement, we find that the majority of our guides have college degrees in a wide variety of subjects. Their broad diversity of interests and intellectual curiosity is only exceeded by their enthusiasm about sharing their knowledge with you.

7. Meticulous Organization and Quality Equipment

Much care is taken in the planning of all of our river trips and other programs to ensure that your experience is enjoyable. Our office staff and guides are always willing to discuss any questions you may have about shuttles, start and finish times, meals, etc.

We use only Coast Guard approved America’s Cup Personal Floatation Devices, which have the highest floatation rating available. On every river trip we bring an extensive safety kit in a waterproof plastic Pelican box, rather than a hard metal ammo box that could hurt you if you fell against it; this was another innovation started at Mother Lode that spread throughout the river industry. We use state-of-art self-bailing Hyside rafts made of Hypalon rubber, which is extremely abrasion resistant. Our Wing and SOTAR rafts are made of a PVC/polyester blend of material that is highly tear resistant. These materials are often coated with polyurethane, the material that makes up the soles of hiking boots, and the result is a raft that is amazingly strong and tough. At a cost of $3000 to $5000 each these rafts are worth every penny.

8. Commitment to Environmental Leadership

Each river experience we design employs our ECOS concept: the direct Experience of nature; which helps form a Connection to it; while improving our powers of Observation; and ultimately motivating us toward Stewardship of the environment upon which we all depend.

Ecotourism, which can be defined as enjoying the resource while acting to preserve it for future generations, is the purpose of our company. We are proud that over the past forty plus years our participants have written 20,000+ hand-written letters and helped save 12 California Rivers to date. This is a record unequaled in the river industry and is rivaled only by Friends of the River, California’s foremost river conservation organization. We attribute this to our dedication to ECOS and the magical power of rivers.

Sustainable practices are also something we believe in at Mother Lode, which is why we’ve aimed to reduce our carbon footprint incrementally to eventually achieve an 80% reduction. Already we have implemented thermal and electric solar power throughout the property, a waste vegetable oil powered bus, truck, and station wagon, and the addition of an organic garden to supplement our meals are all strategies we’ve implemented to achieve this goal.

Our Sustainable Practices program, where guests can become educated and empowered in order to achieve environmental solutions, is another feature that we are providing our guests.

9. Unparalleled Multi-Sport Possibilities

In addition to the programs we offer, Mother Lode is the ideal location from which to launch your own Multi-Sport Adventure. There is a virtually unlimited opportunity for groups, families and individuals to combine rafting with additional days of hiking, biking and horseback riding on the new American River Trail directly adjacent to our camp. There’s also wine and beer tasting, music festivals, parasailing, stand-up paddle (SUP) boarding, and many other recreational opportunities our central location affords. If you need rafting instruction, try our Guide School which is now a collaboration with Friends of the River to add unequalled interpretive and river conservation education to the best rafting instruction you can find anywhere . Interested in kayaking instruction, our partners Phil and Mary DeReimers are among the world’s most respected instructors and expedition leaders. If you want Swiftwater Rescue training for a group or individual, Mother Lode hosts internationally recognized, Rescue 3 sanctioned trainings through our affiliate, Sierra Rescue, to fit you needs.

To assist you in planning such a multi-sport adventure our website includes a local event calendar, a hiking and biking trail guide and a wine tasting tour guide. Feel free to ask for details. Our friendly reservations staff will assist you to find what you need.

10. From Tents to Canvas Cabins to our Riverfront Cottage!

Our large grassy areas for big groups, and small private nooks are ideal riverfront locations to pitch your tent(s) at our campground no matter what you group’s size. We also rent dome tents  of varying sizes (Cost: $10-$20 per night) that accommodate up to 6 people. Upon request, we’ll set them up for you prior to your arrival.

We have sturdy canvas cabin tents accommodating up to 4-8 people each with bunk bed cots provided. (Cost: $50/60 per night flat rate). They are built on wooden platform decks, and have enough space to stand up and walk around. You provide only your pillow and sleeping bag. For extra comfort, sleeping pad rentals are also available. Cost: $5 each.

Our glamour cabins are surrounded by oak trees and grass, share a private river beach, and have full or twin size beds with mattresses. Fully equipped with sturdy canvas roll up windows and doors, enjoy nature while being protected from sun and cool nights. Make sure and reserve these super-plush tent cabins early, as they are very popular. All you need to bring is your sleeping bag and pillow for extra warmth, just in case. (Cost: $80 per night flat rate.)

Last but not least is our cozy river cottage! It has a private bathroom and shower, kitchenette and patio. It sleeps up to 4-6 six people comfortably on 3 beds and a futon couch. (Cost: $250/night on weekends and $190/night for weekdays)