image of South Fork American River mapRafting the American River

River rafting originated with the early pioneer explorers who used canoes, small boats and rafts to travel on the rivers. From these beginnings, El Dorado County, California, river rafting has evolved and developed into the popular sport it is today.

The 9-mile run on the South Fork of the American River, from Chili Bar Dam to Henningsen-Lotus Park, is quite a ride for locals and tourists alike. On this trip, rafters encounter many class III rapids starting with the Meat Grinder and progressing through Race Horse Bend, Maya, Rock Garden, Triple Treat and the Trouble Maker before resting at the Henningsen-Lotus Park.

As this trip goes through Historic Marshall Gold Discover State Park and Coloma, there are some quiet zones enforced. Quiet zones are those areas where local residents live along the banks of the American River.

image of people rafting

Here are some facts from the experts: The gradient of the river is approximately 23 feet per mile. The flows on the river between July and October are from 900 to 1,775 cfs. Flows during the rest of the year can range greatly. Flows over 6,000 cfs (during the snow runoff) turn some of the class II and III rapids into class IV and V, so if you come during the snow runoff be prepared for a much wilder and more dangerous trip. Water temperatures during the fall, winter and spring months fall below 50 degrees F and a wetsuit or dry suit are required.

  image of rafters