Frequently Asked Questions
Got a few questions about our rafting trips and camping? We’ve got some answers! Here are a few of the questions that we hear most often and the answers to them. If what you’re looking for isn’t covered here please do not hesitate to call our reservations staff at 1-800-825-3205 for some answers.
- CAN I RAFT WITHOUT ANY PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE?A lot of our clients have never rafted before and some have been rafting with us for years. Your trip leader and raft guide will provide you with all the necessary information through thorough safety and paddle briefings and lots of hands on training. Rafting is a fun, team activity that is great for all experience levels.
- IS RAFTING SAFE?Like all adventure sports, rafting does have an inherent risk. Unfortunately, rafting has long been plagued by the myth that it is dangerous, extreme and only for adrenaline junkies. Your safety is our number one priority both on and off the river. Without exception we believe in safety in every aspect of your trips, from requiring helmets on every trip to our drug and alcohol policy, from our shuttle vans and drivers, to our guides and equipment American Whitewater Expeditions sets the standard for safety on the American River! We do our best to minimize the risk to you – be it falling out of a raft or getting your knees sunburned! In addition, on our more challenging trips we utilize one or several safety kayaks. Our biggest safety feature, are our world-class, certified, professional guides – you will appreciate the difference that they make. We have had a 100% safety record for the past 34 years and this enviable safety record is one of the reasons why we are at the forefront of the whitewater industry.
- WILL I FALL OUT OF THE RAFT?If you go rafting, you will get wet. Whether you fall out of the raft is another story. We prefer to run the fun and challenging lines of a rapid, but keep you inside the raft. That’s not to say you will not have the occasional out-of-boat experience, however it remains the exception rather than the rule. In the event you do fall out, 99% of the time you’ll be holding onto the outside safety (OS) line around the raft and be pulled in by a fellow paddler or guide. On the Class 4/5 high adventure trips, we have safety kayakers that act like swim coaches and will “rescue” you in the event you may have a not-so-fun swimming experience!
- WILL MY CHILD FALL OUT OF THE BOAT?The answer is the same as the one above however kids tend to actually enjoy falling out a lot more than their parents! We take kids rafting as young as 6 year olds on a daily basis and our highly experienced guides understand the responsibility of having kids on their raft. We have seats in the middle of all our rafts where a child can sit through the rapids and hold on instead of paddling – just in case they may fall out. All of our guides know it can be a scary rafting experience for a child and that is the last thing anyone wants. It is therefore imperative that parents choose the classification of river they are comfortable with and that they do their research to know what to expect on a rafting trip. Armed with that information, each individual and parent needs to make the decision for themself. Our guides make rafting heaps of fun for kids – they do not have to try hard because deep down they are all big kids themselves! Any further concerns or questions please do not hesitate to call us 800-825-3205.
- HOW FIT DO I HAVE TO BE?Forget about the gym membership and leave the muscle supplements at home! There are no Schwarzenegger like fitness requirements to go rafting! If you prefer to stay on land, there are several local hikes and extensive biking trails that you can a do from our camp. You can always sit in camp, enjoy a glass of wine and read your book or listen to your iPod. You’re the one on vacation so you get to decide.
- WHAT IF I CAN’T SWIM?Although knowing how to swim is not a pre-requisite for our South or Middle Fork trips, we recommend you have a good level of comfort with moving water for the North Fork. You’ll be wearing a high-float life jacket, so in the event of you making a premature exit from the raft, you’ll float and be pulled back in by a fellow paddler or your guide. If you fall out, your hair will get wet and yes, you will get laughed at by your fellow rafters, especially if you fall out in a small rapid! All of our guests are outfitted with the very best life jackets at all times on the water. Before anyone gets on the river our guides check everyone’s personal flotation devices (PFDs) to make sure that they fit properly, are appropriate for their body weight, and are adjusted correctly.
- HOW EXPERIENCED ARE YOUR RIVER GUIDES?AWE has always been known on the American River as the company that has the most experienced guides. We are one of the only companies owned by a professional guide still guiding at the highest level in the rafting industry. All of our guides are highly experienced professionals that come from all over California and the world. Our guides are world class and most of them hold Grade 5 Guide certifications from the International Rafting Federation and New Zealand Raft Guide Association – agencies that set the standard for raft guides. We are well above the minimum standards set by California that most others follow. They are all certified in Advanced First Aid, CPR, Advanced Swiftwater Rescue at a minimum! When you raft with us you know you are in good hands.
- WHAT IS THE MINIMUM/MAXIMUM AGE?Our trips cater for people of all ages. Our minimum age limit on the South Fork is 6 years old, on the Middle Fork it’s 12 years old, and on the North Fork the minimum age is 14. While our trips are focused on fun regardless of age, we do not advise you try to bring under age kids on trips. If your 10 year old is built like a 16 year old and swims like Michael Phelps – give us a call and we will see if we can make an exception. In the end, we do not want kids to have a bad experience on a river. We also do not want to compromise the safety of the child and other clients on the trip. And we certainly do not want our staff in a position of having to not allow your child on a trip because of their age.
- WHICH TRIP IS RIGHT FOR ME?We can certainly advise you on which trip best suits your needs however we prefer to leave this decision up to you. Our knowledgeable office staff are always available to help in the event you can’t decide just how much fun you want to have!
If this is your first raft trip we recommend the South Fork American River, a Class III trip with plenty of excitement even for experienced rafters. For those who want more thrills, we suggest the Middle Fork American River with Class III – IV rapids or the North Fork American River with Class IV – V rapids and enough paddle action to satisfy anyone. For those wanting the most action and time on the water, try one of our Combo Trips. For large groups, over 100 people, the South Fork American River is your best choice. But be warned, with over 80% of our guests returning year after year, our trips can be very addictive.
- WILL MY RAFT GUIDE LOOK AFTER ME?We are confident our guides will give you the best rafting experience you have ever had! These river professionals are energetic individuals driven by their love of rafting. They’ll guide you down California’s best whitewater by day, and in the evening they turn into great company over dinner in camp. Our guides are exceptional people handpicked for their unique personalities and river skills.
- WHY DO WE WEAR A HELMET, WHILE SOME COMPANIES DO NOT?We are responsible for your safety on your guided trip and therefore we require all rafters to wear helmets. There are a ton of rocks in the river and there are a lot of paddles flying around in your raft, so helmets are a great way to prevent injury.
Helmets are not required on the South Fork of the American so a lot of companies will not make that investment. Our years of experience have taught us that rocks are pretty hard and paddles to the head hurt. Better safe than sorry!
- WHAT DO I WEAR ON THE RIVER AND IN CAMP?
Dressing appropriately is key to your comfort on the river and that applies if it’s cold or hot. Spring trips are colder so lots of fleece thermals on the water covering all exposed skin and summer trips lots of sunscreen covering all exposed skin. Regardless of hot or cold, we suggest you leave the cotton off the river.
We suggest you read our comprehensive list below of what to bring with you depending on the trip you are doing.
- Sleeping Bag – available to rent.
- Tent – available to rent.
- Foam Pad use is complimentary.
- Sheet for very warm night when it is too hot to get into your sleeping bag.
- Duffle bag or soft pack to carry your gear.
- Tennis shoes to wear on the raft and when swimming. They’ll get wet, so don’t bring your best shoes.
- Or river sandals* or equivalent only. NO flip flops, wet shoes or aqua shoes.
- Swimsuit or shorts and T-shirt* to wear on the rafts.
- Extra tennis shoes or other shoes for something dry to wear around camp.
- Long sleeved shirt and pants for evening. In April, May and September, the nights and early mornings are cool, so bring warmer clothes, i.e., long pants, warm jacket, sweater, etc.
- Folding chair.
- Towel, washcloth, toiletries.
- Wide-brimmed hat*, visor* or cap* (tie-on*).
- Sunglasses with neck strap*, suntan lotion*, sunscreen*, lip ointment*. The sun is very hot.
- Plastic water bottle w/strap*.
- Flashlight*. You’ll need this for getting around at night. There are no lights on the way to the bathroom.
- Waterproof camera*.
- Fishing equipment including bait suitable for bass and trout.
Light rain jacket or nylon windbreaker, polar fleece jacket or vest, wool sweater and wool socks in case it’s overcast.
*Items found in our river store
In addition on spring trips:
- Any garments made of non-cotton, synchilla, wool, fleece, capilene, etc.
- Your personal wet-suit if you have one.
- Hat made of above materials.
- Heavy pair of wool socks.
- Warm sleeping bag, especially in April and early May.
- Wool or fleece sweater, vests, etc., for nighttime.
- 4-man tent. Inquire before bringing larger tents.
- Wetsuit, booties, jacket, sweater or dry suit. Wetsuits available to rent. (Wetsuit packages included on North Fork trips.)
Please do not bring any cotton items on the river with you if you are concerned about staying warm. (This includes jeans and sweatshirts.) When cotton gets wet it robs your body of heat and is unsuitable for physical activity. Synthetic clothing, such as fleece, poly-pro, or capilene provides the best option for warmth retention.
- WHERE DO MY CAMP CLOTHES GO WHEN I AM RAFTING?If you are staying with us in camp before or after your trip, our Greeter in camp will advise you on where valuables and personal items can be store while you are rafting. Usually your stuff stays in your car unless you camp after your trip or if you are on a two day trip.
If you are meeting us in Auburn for a Middle Fork or North Fork trip, your change of clothes and valuables will remain in the shuttle vehicle. The shuttle will meet you at the end of the trip with all of your dry clothes.
- DO I TAKE A CHANGE OF CLOTHES WITH ME ON THE RAFT?No. There is no need for a change of clothes on the raft or a towel.
- WHAT DO I TAKE ON THE RAFT?All you need on your raft in addition to the clothes you are wearing:
– Water Bottle
– 1 tube or can of sunscreen to share amongst the raft if you all know each other.
– Waterproof camera – something small that can attach to your lifejacket.
– Any medications, inhalers, etc. that you require.
- I HAVE A CAMERA, CAN I TAKE IT ON THE RAFT? WHAT ABOUT A GOPRO?We also recommend you pick up a waterproof camera that can be fastened to the collar of your life jacket. Keep in mind that in rapids you will be paddling and not taking pictures! We provide a kayaker on almost all of our trips who will capture all the action on and off the river. These will be available for you to purchase after the trip if you wish. If you have a GoPro, bring it at your own risk.
- CAN I BRING MY OWN LIFEJACKET OR HELMET?Unfortunately, we do not allow you to wear your own PFD or helmet on our guided adventures. Our rafting safety equipment is specific to commercial use and our liability does not cover personal safety gear.
- WHAT IS and IS NOT INCLUDED WITH MY TRIP?
We all hate hidden costs with a passion! Once you show up in the morning at our rafting camp for your trip at the designated meeting times, your trip includes, Hot Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate before your trip. Especially if you are on an early Middle Fork or North Fork Trip. Continental or yummy Hot Breakfast is included with 2-day trips or if you have added it to your trip.
After you arrive and have met the crew, you will either get a comprehensive Safety Talk in Camp for South Fork Trips or jump on one of our Shuttle Vehicles for the drive to the river on a Middle Fork or North Fork Trip. You will get a high quality Commercial Type 5 PFD, a Helmet and a Paddle on all of our trips. Our spring trips on the North Fork include Wetsuits and Splash jackets to keep you comfortable on the river. Wet Suits can be rented for our Spring South Fork Trips, if you do not have your own. Every one of our trips does come with a good looking, outrageously fun, experienced, entertaining and professional raft guide, however, we cannot always guarantee the good-looking part!
A yummy lunch is included on all of our trips except for our half-day South Fork Chili Bar trips and our afternoon Express Gorge Run. Groups of 6 or more can add a hot Burrito Bar Lunch at the end of your Chili Bar trip.
After your trips, we shuttle you back to our River Camp in Coloma or to your vehicle in Auburn if you met us there for your Middle Fork or North Fork trip.
Dinner is included in 2-day trips and may be added to some day trips.
- WHAT HAPPENS IF I GET SICK OR HURT?Due to the nature of a river trip, you are often in remote hard to reach locations and we want you to feel comfortable in your new environment. Our river guides are highly qualified professionals who are trained in Wilderness First Aid, CPR and Swift-water Rescue Techniques. In the highly unlikely event of an accident, your guides will have the experience to deal with a huge variety of ailments and medical situations. Everything from a broken finger nail to an injured back or neck injury. We carry comprehensive First Aid kits on all of our trips, we carry a satellite telephone or cell phone on all of our trips, and we have the ability to evacuate you if we feel it’s necessary.
- WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE AND DO YOU HAVE OPTIONS FOR VEGETARIANS OR PEOPLE WITH ALLERGIES?Don’t plan on losing weight on our trips! Float & Bloat is a commonly used expression here at AWE and with a professional chef cooking all your meals – you should plan for a lot of yummy food!
Typically for breakfast you will have fresh fruit, cereals, bagels and a yummy hot breakfast. There is coffee and an assortment of teas as well. River lunches are monster create your own – deli-style wraps with several meats, cheese and about a dozen vegetables to choose from. Rafts tend to draw more water after lunch! For dinner, you’ll start with an appetizer, followed by a sumptuous main meal with dessert to finish off. A detailed list of meals is found here.
We also cater for all dietary preferences. Our vegetarian clients are constantly amazed at the variety and options we have for them. With other food allergies or preferences, we highly recommend you contact our offices before your trip. We have available a vast variety of gluten, wheat or dairy free options.
If you have serious food allergies for example with peanuts or chocolate chip cookies – please let us know and we will advise you accordingly.
- HOW MANY PEOPLE CAN I EXPECT ON MY RAFT?We want you to have fun on the raft! Unlike most of our competitors who run large 9 person rafts, we run 14 foot rafts with 6 to 7 clients plus a guide. These smaller rafts are way more fun than larger rafts with more people – so when you paddle in a rapid you feel like a ninja on a mission instead of a sardine in a can. On the Middle Fork and North Fork we have a maximum of 6 clients plus a guide. On a rare occasion there may be 7 on a raft if a group of 7 want to stay together. On the South Fork, we almost always run 6 clients in a raft unless the numbers in a party end up making a 6/7 split. Out of a fleet of 40 rafts we do have a few larger 16 foot rafts that are available upon special request for a group on 8 or 9 who want to be in the same raft. The biggest problem having a group or family in the same raft is that you cannot splash each other! Think water-fight, it’s all about strategy!
If it is important to you to have rafts with no other participants, our reservations staff will be glad to take your requests. However, we cannot guarantee that unoccupied spaces will not be taken by other clients. The best bet is to bring a group of 6 and fill the raft. We want you to have heaps of fun and keep coming back for more and more and more.
- CAN I COME ON A TRIP BY MYSELF?Sure, we are all interesting people and we encourage everyone to come rafting. It’s a group activity so you are sure to make new friends. Just call our Reservations Office at 800-825-3205 and we’ll make arrangements to include you with other single bookings or small groups so you can experience the excitement of whitewater rafting.
- WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO RAFTING? For those looking for the most action, the time to raft is in April when the spring runoff is at its peak and the water will be running fast, high, and exciting. The summer months are the most popular for our dam-controlled rivers with great water continuing through September. Midweek river trips offer a slower pace, lower prices, and fewer rafts on the water. The locale of the American River is unique in its weather pattern. Summer arrives early, sometime around April, with temperatures in the high 70’s to 80’s, climbing into the 90’s and 100’s in mid-summer. So, bring your river shoes, shorts, and T-shirt for an exciting, fun-filled river trip.
- WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE AND WILL WE RAFT IN BAD WEATHER OR HIGH WATER?All rafting trips go regardless of weather unless we deem the conditions to be unsafe. For example, we will cancel a trip if there is a snowstorm or flooding due to excessive rain or snowmelt. A full refund for the trip will be made if we decide to cancel the trip. We rarely cancel trips on the South Fork (maybe two days in 34 years). High water South Fork trips are epic in terms of waves, fun and excitement. However, on early season North and Middle Trips we may cancel due to high water. We do reserve the right to move trips to another river or river section depending on the water levels and make-up of the client group.
- WE HAVE WATER ALL SUMMER LONG, WHY?There are a series of dams upstream of the South Fork and Middle Fork of the American River which provide water for electrical power, irrigation, and drinking for residents of California. The most water is released in the spring and summer, supplying plenty of exciting whitewater action. This assures you of a great raft trip all the way through the end of September, even in low snowpack years. The North Fork American is NOT dam controlled, and is therefore runnable only in April, May, and early June, depending on the snowpack and rainfall each year.
- WHAT ABOUT SHUTTLES & ARE YOUR DRIVERS EXPERIENCED?
We provide all shuttles to and from all the rivers we raft. If you have chartered a luxury Gold Coast Bus then we will utilize the bus for your group.
Our drivers are a mix of professional drivers from the local school districts as well as mature experienced drivers that are used to driving vans on our windy roads. All our shuttle drivers are regulated under the Federal Motor Vehicle Standards and are drug and alcohol tested regularly. All our vans and busses are California Highway Police inspected every year and are safety checked every 45 days as per our California PUC License.
- WHAT TIME DO I ARRIVE FOR MY TRIP? WHAT IF I AM LATE FOR MY TRIP?Please CLICK HERE to see our detailed arrival times. If you are running late for a trip meet time, please call us at 800-825-3205. You MAY have options if you are doing a South Fork trip. Due to the logistics of our Middle Fork and North Fork trips, your options are limited if you are late for the meeting time. We will do our best to accommodate you on the same trip or you may have to raft on another date. Please plan ahead and be on time.
- WHAT TIME CAN WE ARRIVE IN CAMP AND WHEN DO WE LEAVE FOR THE TRIP?If you are arriving at our River Camp the day before your trip, then please try and arrive after 5:00 PM. If you plan on arriving at our Camp after 10:00 PM, please look for your camp information on the Camping Board in front of the River Store. If you are arriving after 10:00 PM, please be respectful to fellow campers and keep your voices and noise level down. If you are arriving the morning of your trip then please look at our Trip Meet Times Page for exact meeting times.
- WHERE DO I STAY BEFORE AND AFTER THE RIVER TRIP?Camping before most of our trips is Free so come stay with us. Additional nights camping are always an option so please contact us at 800-825-3205 for more information. Here is a list of local Hotels and B&B.
- WHAT IF I HAVE NEVER CAMPED BEFORE?We believe that camping should be civilized and our River Camp is no exception. Even if you are not a regular “outdoor person” you’ll find our amenities in Camp will make you feel right at home. Spend the night in our spacious tents sleeping on thick comfortable foam mattresses. We have clean & comfortable restrooms and shower facilities, newly remodeled! Yes, we have proper flush toilets and hot showers. Lots of shady trees and grass covered campsites. We even have a mister system under our dining pavilion that is on during the heat of the summer to keep you cool. After your river trip, jump in our pool or play some volleyball. Check out the pictures of our River Camp.
- WHAT CAN I DO IN COLOMA?There is a ton of activities and sights to see in and around Coloma. Check it out.
- WILL YOU CUSTOMIZE A TRIP FOR MY GROUP?If you have a group of friends, a scout or school group or fancy a unique team building event for your company, we’ll happily design your perfect trip to meet all of your requirements. We have extensive experience in this area so let us tailor make your perfect trip.
- NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO RAFT THE SAME RIVER. WHAT CAN WE DO?It’s not a problem. Part of your group can raft the Middle/South Forks Combo and the rest can raft the South Fork American River. You’ll all be at the same campground and will raft the same stretch of river together on the South Fork American River for one day.
- RETAIL THERAPY! DO YOU HAVE A STORE?Yes, we have a River Store with lots of cool T-shirts, camping items and useful items for the river you may have forgotten at home.
- DO I NEED EXTRA MONEY IN CASH?We take care of you during most of your stay with us, but we recommend that you bring some cash for things like gratuity or small purchases. You may desire to purchase a souvenir , photos of your rafting trip, or a snack. We think that $100.00 – $200.00 will be adequate. Visa, MC, American Express and Discover are accepted at our River Store and for Photos.
- TIPPING, IS IT REQUIRED?We are often asked if it is appropriate to tip the guide. Though our staff is well compensated, a gratuity is most appreciated. It is a great way to say thanks, especially if you received outstanding service. We hate to give fixed guidelines, and clients ability to pay extra will obviously vary. Any amount you think appropriate will be well received and will probably depend on the length of the trip. However, tipping is entirely at your discretion.
- WHAT IS YOUR ALCOHOL POLICY IN CAMP & ON THE RIVER?In camp, you are welcome to bring your own alcohol which you can consume at your campsite. We also have a Beer & Wine Bar where you can purchase Micro-Beers from Auburn Ale House as well as Wines from our Local Wineries.
In consideration to fellow campers and our staff, if you are aggressively intoxicated or become a liability to yourself, fellow campers or our staff – you will be asked to leave our camp.
There is no alcohol allowed on the river. If you have been consuming alcohol before your trip, you will not be allowed on the raft.
We are strict about the enforcement of the above and if these policies do not appeal to you, then please choose to raft elsewhere.
- DO I HAVE TO SIGN A LIABILITY WAIVER?Yes. American Whitewater requires that everyone who joins us on the river sign a standard adventure travel industry waiver. Click Here to download or preview a copy of the waiver. If you are under the age of 18, your Waiver must be signed by a Parent or Legal Guardian. Note: you will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader to view, print, or download the waiver.
- WHAT IS YOUR CANCELLATION & REFUND POLICY?
SHOULD WE GET TRAVEL INSURANCE?Please Click Here for our Cancellation & Refund Policy as well as Travel Insurance Information.
- WHAT ABOUT RESTROOMS ON THE RIVER?There are restrooms at all of our river put-ins, take-outs, and there are portable restrooms at all of our lunch stops along the river.
- CAN I BRING MY DOG?Yes, you can bring your dog camping although we recommend you do not. We do not have pet facilities and the summers get hot. Although your dog may love to raft, there are no dogs allowed on our rafting trips! Owners that choose to bring a dog are entirely responsible for your pets behavior, picking up pet messes and for keeping your dog on a leash at all times. If your dog is the barking type, then we ask that you leave it at home or with a loving neighbor. If there are any issues with your dog, for the safety of our other campers, you may be asked to leave camp. Best thing you can do is call us about your dog and we can advise you accordingly.
- WHAT IF I HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION?When making your reservation, please be sure to inform our reservations staff of any medical condition, physical disability or allergy that may require special attention or accommodations. Obtain your physician’s written approval to raft if you have special medical conditions, such as, diabetes, asthma, epilepsy, heart condition, etc. While we can accommodate most conditions, it is always best to know prior to rafting and be prepared for any contingency. If you have questions about particular conditions please call us at 800-825-3205.
- WHAT IF I AM PREGNANT?If you are pregnant, you will not be permitted to go rafting, unless you are only a few weeks along in which case the South Fork is perfect. But do consider that you won’t always be pregnant, but the river will always be here. We do not think it is worth the chance of risking it, no matter how early you are in your pregnancy. We think moms are special – we know you agree and appreciate your cooperation!
- WHAT IF I HAVE A DISABILITY?Those with physical or mental disabilities often raft with us. We love to share the beauty and excitement of our rivers with everyone, regardless of their disabilities. Our staff is patient, compassionate and open to sharing new experiences with all of our guests. While we can accommodate most conditions, it is always best to know this information in advance. Please give us details when making your reservations
- I HAVE DIABETES, CAN I STILL RAFT?Having diabetes does not preclude you from experiencing all of the fun, excitement, and adventure of a whitewater raft trip. People with diabetes raft with us all of the time without incident. Our guides are all trained in the “highs and lows” of the diabetic. Give us a call at 800-825-3205 for more information.
- I HAVE A QUESTION THAT IS NOT ON THIS LIST?Please email us your question or call us at 800-825-3205. We are ready to answer any of your questions.
- HOW DO I GO ABOUT MAKING A RESERVATION?You can call us at 800-825-3205 or you can Book Online.