South Fork American River

Lotus-Coloma (CA Highway 49 between Auburn and Placerville) /

Level: Beginner to Intermediate /

Class 2-3+

Class 2 & 3 Rafting Trips on the South American River

The South Fork American River rafting trips are some of the most popular in California, and for very good reasons. This river has served as an introduction to California whitewater rafting for countless beginners. It is also exciting enough to lure many back year after year. There are trips suitable for everyone, including families, corporate groups, scouts and youth groups. Raft for just a few hours or spend 2-4 days. See below for all your rafting options.

Trip Info

There are many memorable rapids as the South Fork American river winds its way through the scenic green and gold foothills of California’s Gold Rush Country. It passes through the historic town of Coloma and the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.

When other California rafting trips have dried up, the South Fork American River is still providing an exciting and fun time. Great water releases are guaranteed past Labor Day weekend.

All South Fork American River rafting trips meet at our camp in the Coloma-Lotus area. Each rafting trip starts with an orientation and a safety talk. Personal flotation devices are fitted and paddling instruction is given. A professional, skilled river guide is on board every raft to help steer you safely down the river, as you power the raft with your paddle.

Camping can be arranged before or after any of our South Fork American River trips. Multi-day trip options include 1-2 nights camping.

Professional photography companies shoot at the major rapids on the river. You can view your photos online after your trip.

NOTICE: Water flows in the South Fork American River result from releases from hydroelectric facilities located upstream. Such water releases are not subject to the control of El Dorado County or commercial rafting companies operating under permit from the County of El Dorado.


What class is troublemaker on the American River?

Troublemaker Rapid on the South Fork American River is a Class 3+ rapid at normal flows (usually 1500-1800 cfs). At times in the spring the flows can surge up to 6000+ cfs, which raises the class to a 4+ or more.

What river runs through Coloma CA?

The South Fork American River runs through Coloma, California. This section of river is popular for day recreation, kayaking, white water rafting and fishing.

The South Fork American River is 21 miles long between the Chili Bar Dam put in and Folsom Lake Take Out. There are several sections to raft on the South Fork American River from 1/2 day, full day, or overnight trips with combos on other rivers.

South Fork American River Map

Where is the South Fork American River?

The South Fork American River is located in Northern California, between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. The river starts from the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and flows into Folsom Lake.

Where does the South Fork American River start?

The South Fork American River watershed begins in the Desolation Wilderness and flows thru the rolling hills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. There are many access points along the river for boaters to raft and kayak down the river.

What class rapids are on the American River?

The South Fork American River rapids are rated Class 2-3+ during normal summer flows (1500-1800cfs). During spring snowmelt the flows may get into the Class 4+ range, making for some excellent high water trips.

How long does it take to raft the American River?

Rafting trips on the South Fork American River can be as short as a few hours or several days with camping. Trips are offered as 1/2 day, full day, and 2 day overnight rafting trips.

What does a class 3 rapid look like?

Class 3 rapids are rated as “Difficult” according to the International Scale of River Difficulty and are classified as “Waves numerous, high, irregular; rocks, eddies, rapids with passages that are clear though narrow, requiring expertise in maneuvering.”

Image of the Class 3 Troublemaker Rapid on the South Fork American River

Where should I stay?


  • Raft California Campground – Lotus, CA
    Camp with us @ our private riverside campground. This is the same location for our river trips and overnight trips with meals and camping included are also available on certain dates.
  • Consumnes River Ranch – Plymouth, CA
    One of our preferred partners! This is an amazing private property on the Consumnes River with tent camping, glamping cabins, stone barn for weddings and more.

AirBnb Options:

  • B3 – Placerville, CA
    Private guest house, covered parking, close to sking, whitewater rafting, hiking, wineries.

Hotel Options:

Meeting Location

Raft California / Tributary Whitewater Tours
South Fork American River Campground
6500 CA-49 (Historic Highway 49)
Lotus, CA 95651

Great option for rafting near Lake Tahoe, Sacramento & the Bay Area!

South Fork American River Rafting News