Watch CBS News

Guide to American River Whitewater Rafting

Thrill with American River Whitewater Rafting
By Linda Bottjer
Photo Credit:

It's not too late to escape the mundane or scorching summer heat by whitewater rafting down the American River. Historic due to the fact John Marshall first discovered gold in the waters of the river's South Fork, the American begins high in the Sierra Nevada of Placer and El Dorado counties.

The water comes from the past winter's melting mountain snowpack and determines how long the season will last. Typically, the river cooperates from April to mid summer, but some trips last until the fall. And 2011's cool spring means higher flows than normal well into the season.

A little advance planning will make your day or the river a perfect memory maker.

For families with children most rafting companies offer half day to multiple day trips. The pace is slower which allows greater focus on subjects such as the area's wildlife.

In the morning Tributary Waterwater Tours, from Grass Valley, hits the first four miles of the American's South Fork that brings young paddlers, as young as five years old, through the Class I and II Lotus Run rapids. The more thrilling Class III afternoon portion continues for anyone 7 years and older while the younger ones or less-experienced adults can hike or visit the nearby Marshall Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma.

Outdoor education is a major component at the Mother Lode River Center. Guides spend time off the river leading classes in Gold County history and scientific studies of the river for 4th to 6th graders. Both
classes fit into the curriculum of California schools.

Survival, not fashion, determines what type of clothing to wear while rafting –even on simple float trips.

Leave the flip-flops and cotton t-shirts at home. One will not properly protect your feet while the other takes too long to dry. Instead bring old sneakers or river shoes and rent a wetsuit from the rafting company.

If you require a plus size wetsuit it is advisable to call ahead to reserve the wetsuit several weeks prior to your trip.

Since spring, even as late as early June, can still bring snow to the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada foothills companies such as Lotus' American River Recreation suggest wearing wool for its moisture wicking ability that prevents hypothermia.

ARR picks up in Auburn for one and multiday trips like the popular Class IV + through the North Fork's
Chamberlain Falls, Bogus Thunder and Staircase.

Strip down to the elements and leave phones, i-Pods, cameras and other expensive non-essentials at home or in the car. Seeing such items swallowed forever in swirling white foam is a bummer. Many rafting companies place professional photographers at strategic locations of the runs to capture the thrills forever digitally.

Beside the professional guide and equipment most rafting companies offers a deli-style lunch with half-
day trips. Longer trips such as ARTA's two-day Middle Fork run come with multiple meals, camping facilities and off river activities.

Some companies also offer rentals on camping equipment such as tents and sleeping bags. Again it is advisable to call ahead to reserve during the busy summer season.

Whitewater rafting is a popular pastime for Sacramenteans.

Make plans to get wet and wild soon.

Linda Bottjer is a full time writer whose natural curiosity buoys her sense of adventure. Her work can be found at
View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.