South Fork American River
Class III California Whitewater Rafting


Central California, One hour east of Sacramento near Coloma

Difficulty: Class III, Beginner/Intermediate
Available: Daily, Mid-April through October
Minimum Age: 7 years old

Customer Testimonial

“We had the best time on the South Fork. The guides were just fabulous in taking good care of us, sharing their knowledge of the river environment and just having fun!”
–N.K., Anaheim

RAFTING THE SOUTH FORK AMERICAN RIVER, COLOMA, CALIFORNIA—We rate the South Fork of the American River as the best river in California for both first-time and more experienced rafters. As the premier dam controlled river in California, the South Fork is a consistent Class III intermediate whitewater river, and it has become our most popular vacation for individuals, families, groups of friends and company recreation trips. Because of it’s abundant dam controlled releases it is available daily from April through September. The river offers a wide range of adventures, with over 50 exciting rapids interspersed with calm, slower stretches where you can enjoy the beautiful canyon scenery and each other’s company.

Beginner Whitewater Rafters Love South Fork American River Rafting!

The South Fork‘s many whitewater rapids are perfect for learning and practicing the paddle skills of whitewater rafting. Each 13 or 14 foot self-bailing raft usually has a crew of 4 to 7 paddlers, and an experienced guide at the back of the boat who steers the raft and instructs the crew in basic paddle strokes, in order to power the raft through the rapids as a team. Under our paddle captain’s guidance, we set up for each approaching rapid, paddle hard to make it through safely, and sit back to laugh and relax with each successful, wet run of an exciting rapid.

Melting snow from the High Sierras creates this 21-mile whitewater river in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada near Coloma on Highway 49, one hour east of Sacramento. The water is clear and cool; the air is clean and warm–the perfect setting for a fun, exciting adventure. The river environment is home to a multitude of fish, birds, and other wildlife. The scenery alternates between rolling green and golden hills and long rocky gorges with many oaks and pines along the riverbank.


The Gorge and Chili Bar Runs, 21 miles. Two Days Rafting, One Night Camping, 4 meals

» Trip Details/Itineraries [PDF]

We start our two-day trips on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On the morning of the first day we’ll meet for a river orientation and safety talk. Then you and your other crew members will board your boat at our campsite put-in and practice basic paddle strokes with your guide before setting out to raft the lower eleven miles of the river known as the “Gorge Run”.

Before lunch, the river winds through rolling hills and the rapids are fun and easy- a good chance to warm up and get to know your crew and guide. We’ll stop midday for a delicious deli-style lunch on the riverbank, and then it’s off to the bigger rapids in the lower section of the Gorge run. By the end of the day, you’ll have rafted some of the most fun rapids in California.

We’ll drive back to camp where you can shower, relax, and play while your guides prepare dinner. After dinner we’ll gather around a roaring campfire to end the evening in the glow of a day well spent.

The second day after a nutritious “ADVENTURE CONNECTION” breakfast we’ll drive up to the start of the upper ten miles of the river known as the “Chili Bar” section. The river starts right out in some big Class III rapids, and you’re ready for them after yesterday’s run. We tackle the exciting Meatgrinder rapid, followed by Triple Threat, Racehorse Bend and Troublemaker, thought by some to be the biggest rapid on the river. Then we float into a calmer stretch to enjoy the beautiful scenery and laugh about the excitement and adrenaline rush of the morning’s rapids.

We’ll beach our boats back at the campsite in the early afternoon and have a big barbecue lunch. Saying good-bye to your guide and other crew members before departing for other adventures is the last event of a glorious two-day adventure.


The Gorge Run, 13 miles with lunch

» Trip Details/Itineraries [PDF]

We meet at our campsite just outside Coloma on Highway 49. We launch from our campsite into a fun and easy section of the river, with time to warm up and practice our paddling before hitting some of the bigger Class III rapids in the Gorge. This eleven-mile run is fun and exciting, just perfect for a beginning and intermediate whitewater experience! We have a healthy and hearty lunch on the riverbank.

We’ll tackle fun and challenging rapids like Satan’s Cesspool, Hospital Bar and Recovery Room. At the end of the day, we shuttle back to camp in an Adventure Connection vehicle, and you may take a shower, buy a souvenir t-shirt and say farewell to the new friends you’ve made.

The Chili Bar Run, 10 miles with lunch

» Trip Details/Itineraries [PDF]

We meet at our campsite just outside Coloma on Highway 49 and shuttle up to the top of the river canyon, where we begin the Chili Bar run. The river starts right out with exciting rapids so first-timers are ready for a thrill from the beginning. After we practice our paddle strokes we’ll tackle fun and challenging rapids like Meatgrinder and Triple Threat, and finish off the big rapids with the excitement of Troublemaker. We enjoy the beauty of the river canyon stopping for lunch along the riverbank and take out at our camp in time for fond farewells.


Chili Bar Half-Day Run

»Trip Details/Itineraries [PDF]

Gorge Half-Day Run

»Trip Details/Itineraries [PDF]

For those of you on a tighter schedule, we have two separate half-day adventures designed to give you as many whitewater rafting thrills and spills as possible in a shorter time-frame. The 9-mile Chili Bar half-day whitewater rafting trip meets at 8:30 AM and finishes around noon. The 11-mile Gorge half-day whitewater rafting trip meets at noon and finishes around 4:00 PM. Lunch is not included on these trips, but can be added for an additional cost. And whilst we truly believe that the more time you spend on a river the happier you’ll be…these two mini-runs are gems!

Our Riverside Campground: the Best on the South Fork!

Our wilderness camp is the largest and most comfortable campsite on the river! Two major campsites range along the river bank with plenty of room for couples, families, and groups; hot showers and flush toilets are on-site. Off-river activities center around the large kitchens, outdoor dining areas and camp stores, and include a first-class volleyball court, ping-pong, horseshoes, an interpretive nature trail, evening campfire and slide show of your boats navigating the day’s rapids — a perfect setting for lots of fun!