The South Fork has two stretches of class III white water which are the West's most popular whitewater attraction. There is no better way to cool off on a hot afternoon than to plunge through Trouble Maker Rapid, Satan's Seaspool, or Hospital Bar! Great for first-timers and regular paddlers. Friends of the River's Rafting Program holds many of its Member Outing rafting trips on these runs. Click on Calendar above to look at upcoming trips.
North & Middle Forks
More than a half million people a year visit the wild and beautiful canyons of the North and Middle Forks of the American River. The area is located just 35 miles east of Sacramento near the city of Auburn (There's also great river recreation on the river's south fork near Placerville and in Sacramento on what is known as the lower American River). Although currently managed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation as the Auburn State Recreation Area, approximately 84 percent of the 35,000 acres in the river canyons are federally-owned public lands.
The rivers offer a wide variety of whitewater recreation opportunities. The lower segments of the North Fork and Middle Fork provide easy Class II floats for canoes and kayaks; the perfect introduction for beginners. The upper segments provide serious Class IV-V whitewater for expert boaters. Those who wish to enjoy flat water can utilize the boat-in campgrounds on the Clementine reservoir, which divides the otherwise free- flowing North Fork into two distinct segments.
More than 100 miles of trails provide access for hikers, anglers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. The Western States National Recreation Trail traverses the area and hosts internationally recognized competitive running and equestrian events. Scenic Highway 49 provides ready access to the confluence of the river forks, with its numerous trailheads and swimming beaches.
The canyons are dotted with more than 1,500 gold rush era historic and Native American cultural sites, many of which are eligible for inclusion on the National Historic Register. One of these sites is where miners diverted the Middle Fork down a chute and through a tunnel to provide access to the riverbed for gold mining (and thereby creating a heart-pounding, Class V whitewater rapid known as "Tunnel Chute"). Another historic site is the still-standing No Hands Bridge (also called the Mountain Quarry bridge) downstream of Highway 49 on the North Fork, which was built to accommodate trains servicing an upstream rock quarry and was the first concrete bridge of its kind in North America.
The unique biological communities of the canyons provide exceptionally high quality and diverse habitat for 238 birds, 47 mammals, 10 amphibians, and 2 reptiles. Sensitive, threatened, and endangered wildlife species found in the area include Peregrine falcon, bald eagle, golden eagle, valley elderberry long-horn beetle, foothill yellow-legged frog, river otter, Townsend big-eared bat, and more than 86 butterfly species. The river provides high quality habitat for native fish, including trophy-sized rainbow trout.
In recognition of the their outstanding scenic, recreation, historic, cultural, fish, wildlife and ecological values, 21 miles of the North Fork and 23 miles of the Middle Fork are eligible for National Wild & Scenic River status. Wild & Scenic designation would prevent the construction of the notorious Auburn dam - a destructive project that Congress and the California Legislature has numerous times in the past decade. This nearly 700-foot-high dam could drown more than 45 miles of the river, along with its recreational, historical, and biological values.
How To Get There
Recreation And Visitor Information concerning trails and other recreational opportunities in the canyons of the American River, contact the Auburn State Recreation Area office at 501 El Dorado Street, Auburn, CA 95603. (530) 885-4527.
Also check bookstores for The American River - North, Middle & South Forks. This recreational guide of the three forks of the river was published by the Auburn-based citizens group, Protect American River Canyons.
Recreation And Visitor Information