The American River is one of California’s great vacation spots, with safe, exciting family whitewater rafting trips appropriate for nearly all ages. In addition to their river skills, all your guides are professional outdoor educators with extensive safety training and a wealth of knowledge about the natural world and local history, adding a unique quality to your family vacation.
Family Whitewater Rafting Adventures
Families enjoy several fun trips on the American River:
Chili Bar: Class III
Minimum age: 8
Time: 8am- approx. 3pm
The whitewater action on this scenic stretch of the South Fork of the American River starts with the famous “Meatgrinder” rapid. Continuing down the canyon you’ll go through one great rapid after another–”Racehorse Bend,” “African Queen,” “Triple Threat” building up to “Troublemaker.” After a hearty lunch prepared by your guides, the river mellows to a relaxing float through the historic Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and the trip ends back at our camp in Coloma.
Gorge: Class III
Minimum age: 8
Time: 11am-approx. 5pm
If getting up early isn’t your idea of a relaxing vacation with family, the Gorge’s 11:00 AM meeting time is perfect for you! The Gorge rafting trip begins at our camp in Coloma on the South Fork of the American River with a series of Class I and II warm-up rapids. We stop for lunch by the river before the canyon narrows and the river sweeps us downstream in a series of near-continuous Class III rapids. You will hear the shrieks of excitement and high fives before you arrive at rapids like “Satan’s Cesspool,” “Bouncing Rock,” and “Hospital Bar.” We end up at the Folsom Lake Reservoir and Mother Lode provides a shuttle back to camp.
Fun Family Float: Class II
Minimum age: 8
Have just a few hours? Are you more interested in sightseeing than whitewater? This 4-mile stretch of calmer, Class I-II riffles on the South Fork of the American is the perfect family outdoor adventure for little ones, and for families who just want to chill out on the river and relax.
South Fork 2-day:
Combine the Chili Bar and Gorge runs, or one of those two with the Family Float, and you have a legendary 2-day, family vacation weekend that will give everyone the chance to truly unwind. One of the ultimate weekend family trips is to stay the night at our 20-acre river camp.
South/Middle Fork 2-day:
If your children are ages 14 and up, you may be ready to ramp up the level of excitement for your family vacation trip. Sign up for a South Fork/Middle Fork 2-day, warming up on Class III rapids the first day, camp overnight, then graduate to the heart-pounding Class IV Middle Fork the following day. See for yourself why the Middle Fork of the American has been determined eligible for National Wild and Scenic Status, an honor less than 2% of rivers nationwide can claim.
River Classification System
- Class I:
- Moving water with small waves and no obstacles.
- Class II:
- Moderately moving water with gentle waves. Obstacles such as rocks and changes in river gradient are easy to maneuver through and around.
- Class III:
- Moderate whitewater; exciting but not difficult. Waves are numerous; obstacles require precise maneuvering around.
- Class IV:
- High volume whitewater that requires technical maneuvering; swimming ability, and some rafting experience required.
Mother Lode River Center — A Perfect Balance of Fun and Retreat for your Outdoor Family Vacation