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Map of the North Fork – American River

North Fork American River map

Season: April – May
Stretch: Iowa Hill – Ponderosa Bridge
Difficulty: Class IV/V
Distance: 9 miles
Flows: 1000 – 4000 CFS, measured as release from Oxbow Dam
Gradient: 36 fpm average
Put-in: Iowa Hill Bridge
Take-out: Ponderosa Bridge
Shuttle: 90 minutes AWE to Iowa Hill. 45 minutes Auburn to Iowa Hill

The legendary North Fork of the American River is by far the most difficult of the three forks of the American River. Solid technical whitewater rafting skills are required for a safe and successful run. Guides must be skilled and paddlers must be able to paddle well and be comfortable swimming in moving water. At high water, 3000 cfs and up, the river is more continuous with less time to prepare between rapids. Rafting at flows over 2500 is up to the guides and based on evaluation of the paddlers. At Lower flows (1500 cfs and below) the river is a boulder choked canyon with many rock sieves and numerous strainers. It is technical rafting at its best.

This Class IV-V, spring run starts at Iowa Hill Bridge and runs 9 miles down to Ponderosa Bridge at average of 36 feet per mile. The upper half is a lot steeper than the lower 4 miles. A quarter mile below the Iowa Hill Bridge starts the Chamberlain Falls Gorge, which is solid class 4/5. Zigzag, Achilles’ Heel, Bogus Thunder, Staircase rapid are all infamous rapids on this North Fork American River and require full participation to navigate successfully. Wraps and Flips are common occurrences while rafting this river so it’s imperative that paddlers know how to swim and self-rescue.

Read below and take a VIRTUAL RIDE rafting down the North Fork American River…

Mile 0.0
Colfax-Iowa Hill Bridge Put-In

Mile 0.2
Beginner's Luck (Class III)

Mile 0.4 – 0.8
Slaughter's Sluice (Class IV)

Mile 0.8
Chamberlain Falls (Class IV/V)

Mile 1.1
Tongue and Groove (Class IV)

Mile 1.9
Zigzag (Class IV)

Mile 2.2
Achilles Heel (Class IV)

Mile 2.5
Bogus Thunder (Class IV)

Mile 2.6
Grand Slalom (Class III)

Mile 3.1
Staircase (Class IV/V)

Mile 3.3
Nose Stand Class III

Mile 3.5
Indian Creek enters on river left.

Mile 4.8
Yankee Jim's Bridge and Shirttail Canyon on left.

Mile 9.3
Ponderosa Way Bridge Take-Out