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Watching the Wildlife on the American River

What’s a float down the river without seeing some spectacular wildlife along the way? The American River Valley has more than its fair share of critters that swim, soar, and slink. Here are just a few of the wild things you might see…if you keep your eyes open.

Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming

You won’t find Nemo or Dory in the American, but you might meet some of their freshwater fish friends, including:

  • Salmon
  • Winter Steelhead
  • American Shad
  • Fall Chinook
  • Striped Bass

Fishermen (and women) have claimed to pull 50+ pound bass from the waters in mid-summer, but we all know how fishermen embellish the facts, so it’s probably best to see for yourself!

The Cuddly…and the Not So Cuddly

Keep your (waterproof) camera at the ready on a trip down the American. The banks are teeming with creatures that line up to point and laugh at the silly humans being bounced out of that giant rubber boat. OK, maybe not really, but there’s plenty of furry creatures to see. Aside from the normal forest animals, such as deer, chipmunks, and squirrels, you might be lucky enough to see one of these easily missed animals:

  • Island Foxes
  • California Black Bears
  • American Badgers
  • Western Spotted Skunks
  • Beavers (and their dams and lodges!)
  • And even Cougars

Don’t panic though! According to a Wikipedia article, the last attack was nearly 20 years ago, in 1994, when a 40-year-old Placerville resident was killed by a cougar (yikes!) while jogging on a trail along the American River. So the chance of an encounter with one of these great cats is amazingly remote, but do stay alert out there and always keep to a safe distance from any wild animal!

Look to the Skies

The American River Valley is a playground for birdwatchers. You can expect to see common birds, such as wood ducks and woodpeckers, but there are some pretty spectacular creatures in the treetops if you’re willing to look hard enough. Birdwatchers should be on the look out for these winged wonders:

  • Red Shouldered Hawks
  • Bald Eagles
  • Golden Eagles
  • Northern Mockingbirds
  • Great Horned Owls

Check out the shores of the American and see if you can spot a Green Heron, or watch the tree line for a glimpse of the wild turkeys that roam there.

The American River Valley is home to more critters than you can count in a day, but not all of them are willing to pop right out and mug for the camera. Keep looking! That movement you detected out of the corner your eye could be a Fallow deer smiling at you from the shores of the river as you drift past. Or it could be a puma…

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