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 most days 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.
The South Fork‘s many whitewater rapids are perfect for learning and practicing the paddle skills of whitewater rafting. Each 14 to 15 foot self-bailing raft usually has a crew of 6 to 8 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.
We have a variety of camping options on the South Fork American River. All our camping options are riverside and have amenities like flushing toilets and showers! Check out our camping options! You can add camping to your rafting trip online or on the phone!
Our most popular day trip begins with you meeting us at 11:00 AM at our private 40 acre ranch just outside Coloma on Hwy 49 in Lotus. We meet for a riverside lunch. We’ll provide a comprehensive safety orientation, outfit you with paddles, lifejackets, helmets and a raft with a guide! We then spend the afternoon tackling fun and challenging rapids named Satan’s Cesspool, Bouncing Rock, Hospital Bar and more, finishing up this 11 mile run at Folsom Reservoir where we shuttle you back to camp usually finishing up around 4 to 5:00 PM. Please note that the option to camp at our location the evening prior is available in advance online or thru our office.
We meet at 8:00 AM at our private ranch just outside Coloma on Hwy 49 in Lotus and shuttle you up to the top of the river canyon to 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. The rest of the morning and early afternoon is spent enjoying a beautiful float past Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, site of the iconic event which led to California becoming known as the “Golden State!” We end up back at our ranch with a delicious late lunch finishing up around 2 to 3:00 PM. Please note that the option to camp at our location the evening prior is available in advance on line or thru or office.
The 21-mile Full River trip combines both the upper Chili Bar and Lower Gorge sections of the South Fork American. Riverside lunch is included on this all day trip meeting at our camp at 8:00 AM and end around 4:30 PM.
Riverside camping is available before or after your trip.
These great trips run on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This adventure includes meeting at 10:30 AM on day one with four meals (lunch and dinner on day one and breakfast/lunch on day two) though the opportunity to come in the afternoon or evening prior to the trip and including breakfast that first morning is an option that’s very popular. After a comprehensive safety orientation we’ll get you set up with rafting gear, a guide and then take a short shuttle upstream to the put-in location. We’ll float down a 4 mile class II section and after a great on-river lunch we’ll tackle the rest of the Gorge Run, ending up in Folsom Reservoir where we’ll shuttle you back to camp. Appetizers, beverages (including beer, wine and non-alcoholic choices) and a fabulous dinner all await you. Interested in what happens on day two? Click “Learn More” below!”
Adventure Connection is proud to be one of the first rafting companies to offer a special series of rafting trips for the whole family, designed to bring fun and adventure, education and growth to our guests. These trips offer you time together in the outdoors, sharing the thrills of the river, meals, campfire and sleeping out under the stars. For detailed trip information, see Two-day South Fork Trips.
We start these great family adventures on Mondays and Thursdays, and we make them truly affordable by offering a 50% discount for each youth accompanied by a full-paying adult. Additional youths receive the regular $20/person youth discount
The chance to combine the adventurous Class IV Middle Fork American River with the Class III South Fork trip is usually available from mid-May through September. We start day one on the more challenging 17 mile Middle Fork run. The Middle Fork is one of California’s most beautiful Class IV runs, and it has perhaps the most famous rapid in all of the west – the infamous Tunnel Chute, a rollicking 20 foot drop through a man-made chute blasted out by 19th century miners, ending in a 90 foot tunnel! Camp at our private South Fork campground and run the Chili Bar run on the South Fork Day 2. You are done around 2:00pm on day 2 giving time for travel in the afternoon!
The chance to combine our classic Class III South Fork American River rafting trip with our more adventurous Class IV Middle Fork run occurs each summer, usually from mid-May through September. Start with Class III rapids day 1 on the South Fork Gorge Run. Camping and meals are provided at our private riverside camp. Day 2 we travel to the Middle Fork American River for the 17 mile trip. The Middle Fork is one of California’s most beautiful Class IV runs, and it has perhaps the most famous rapid in all of the west – the infamous Tunnel Chute, a rollicking 20 foot drop through a man-made chute blasted out by 19th century miners, ending in a 90 foot tunnel!
Combine our classic Class III South Fork trip with the truly adventurous Class IV North Fork American. Only available during spring run-off, this is a challenging run for experienced boaters only. You must have run at least a class III river, and we cannot take non-swimmers on this adventure. Minimum age for this trip is 14
though, like our other trips, water levels and other factors may force a higher age