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Fork It! – California’s best – the South Fork river

The South Fork of the American River offers 21 miles of class III whitewater to enjoy. The heart of this popular river resides in the town of Coloma California. This river was pioneered in the early 1970s by a handful of outfitters looking for a new boating resource after the Main Stanislaus was dammed. Most American River rafting companies offer 1 and 2 day trips between the two sections of river.

The Gorge
This is the lower half of the river from Coloma to Folsom Lake and is the one most often paddled by first timers. This is also the section that run on the first day of a 2 day trip. Rafting Companies start out the trip near the town of Coloma from their rafting camp. It starts with a fun class II segment of river that meanders through rolling forested hills, and there are plenty of swim and play spots on the river where guides introduce the fundamentals of rafting. After lunch the gorge and the numerous class III rapids come into play; starting with Fowler’s Rock, the rapids come in quick succession through the gorge. Next are several classic class III rapids including Satan’s Cesspool, Bouncing rock, and Hospital Bar as the paddle continues down to Folsom Lake. Late in the season and in low water years there are a few additional rapids all the way to the take out.

The Chili Bar
The upper part of the river is called the Chili Bar Section and runs from Chili Bar near the quaint gold rush town of Placerville down to Coloma. The trip is between 8 and 10 miles depending upon where the company’s camp is located. This section starts off really quick with a first big class III rapid early on in the day. The river goes pretty quick in the canyon until it starts to open up in the Coloma valley. The last major rapid is the infamous Trouble Maker. After this, the experience is a fun float back to camp with lots of play and swim areas.

The South Fork of the American River really is a California classic, because it is so easy to enjoy and the miles of family friendly whitewater. You will find great guides, excellent rafting camps, and quality trips out here. 8 to 80 years old? You can still get on this remarkable stretch of river and have a good time.

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DISCLAIMER: The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, viewpoints or official policies of the IRF.