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Rafting is a Trip: The Forks of the American River

Rafting the American River - Which fork is best for my group?You’re sure to have questions when deciding on your perfect rafting adventure. “Is it safe?” Very. “Am I going to get wet?” Yes. “Will I fall out of the raft?” Probably not, unless we really don’t like you. “Which fork of the American River is best for me?” Well, that all depends on what you’re looking for.

To help you decide, we’ve crafted a little guide to help you choose the best expedition for your personality, activity level, and courage threshold.

The South Fork
Best for families with children, nervous Nellies, and semi-reformed couch potatoes, the South Fork of the American offers safe thrills and minor chills. The 21-mile stretch is rated Class 3 and features 30 rapids ranging from mild to moderate. You won’t be terrified but you certainly won’t be bored, either! This is also the best introduction to the world of rafting for the little ones, so don’t hesitate to bring them along.

The season for this fork runs from April to the end of September, although you may be able to talk us into a weekend trip in October. (Helpful hint: Chocolate chip cookies are an acceptable bribe.) Visit us in the spring when the water flows faster for the most exciting trip.

The Middle Fork
The Middle Fork of the American is a great run for those seeking some serious adventure. Pick up a paddle and hold on tight through giant drops and Class IV whitewater under the watchful gaze of one of our professional guides. The highlight of a Middle Fork trip is Tunnel Chute Rapids, a wild ride that descends 80 feet down a seriously narrow channel and ends up underground inside an old gold miner’s tunnel. You’ll live to see the sky again, we promise.

The semi-strenuous journey does require some major paddle work; this trip is best for those with an average fitness level. The season starts in late April or early May and runs through October, depending on river flow. Our insurance company says kids have to be 12 or older for this trip. They’re pretty bossy.

The North Fork
The North Fork is an adrenaline junkie’s dream. Rated Class IV/V, this stretch of the American offers the best whitewater experience in California. But don’t worry: we take more people through it every year than all the other rafting companies combined. The North Fork isn’t dam controlled, which allows for a faster flow and a more exhilarating experience. However, the lack of a dam makes this section passable only during April, May, and sometimes into early June.

The scenery is great but the almost continuous whitewater means you probably won’t get the chance to see too much of it until the home stretch. Previous rafting experience is a huge plus, as the North Fork requires everyone to paddle for all they’re worth. Kids younger than 14 are not allowed — regardless of how much they pout.

Whether you’re scared of water or a seasoned adventure seeker, there’s no excuse not to get out on the river. What are you waiting for? 

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