South Fork American River Rafting

The West Coast's Most Popular Class III River

South Fork American River Rafting

The West Coast's Most Popular Class III River

First timers, weekend warriors, and families alike have made the South Fork of the American River one of the most popular rivers in North America.

You get just the right mix of all the things people love about California whitewater rafting – exciting rapids, beautiful scenery, interesting history and a location close to the San Francisco Bay Area, Lake Tahoe and Sacramento.

The South Fork American River truly does offer something for everyone. Depending on what suits your fancy, the South Fork offers half day river trips, full day river trips and even overnight river trip options. Browse through all of our South Fork rafting trips to determine which trip best fits your style of adventure.

Trip Highlights

  • 40 Rapids in 21 Miles
  • Fun Class III Whitewater for all ability levels
  • Scenic river canyon
  • Clear, Calm Pools

Skill Level: There are runs appropriate for beginners to advanced boaters.

Duration: Half-day Family Float, to the full-day Gorge and Chili Bar runs

Age: Family Float and Gorge runs: age 8, Chili Bar: age 8 under normal water flow conditions.

Season: April through October

Availability: Every day

Requirements: Guests must have swimming ability.

One-Day River Trips

Gorge Run – Class III – Including lunch

Rafting with Mother Lode on The South Fork American River Gorge

The Gorge Run begins with mellow Class II rapids and builds to a thrilling crescendo of whitewater. This enables paddlers to hone their paddling skills and grow accustomed to being on the river. As the trip continues the river canyon narrows into the granite-walled ‘Gorge’ where guests will experience a series of continuous Class III rapids including Fowler’s Rock, Satan’s Cesspool , Son of Satan, Scissors, Elevator Shaft, Hospital Bar, and Recovery Room! Your day is finished when you reach Folsom Lake, where our shuttles will greet you with a cold beverage and a ride back to the River Center. Minimum age is 8 years old under normal water flow conditions. 

Gorge Value – Class III Without Lunch

Rafting with Mother Lode on The South Fork American River Gorge

The Gorge Run begins with mellow Class II rapids and builds to a thrilling crescendo of whitewater. This enables paddlers to hone their paddling skills and grow accustomed to being on the river. As the trip continues the river canyon narrows into the granite-walled ‘Gorge’ where guests will experience a series of continuous Class III rapids including Fowler’s Rock, Satan’s Cesspool , Son of Satan, Scissors, Elevator Shaft, Hospital Bar, and Recovery Room! Your day is finished when you reach Folsom Lake, where our shuttles will greet you with a cold beverage and a ride back to the River Center. Minimum age is 8 years old under normal water flow conditions. 

Chili Bar Run- Class III+

Action on this stretch of river starts immediately with Class III Meatgrinder, the longest, most technical rapid on the South Fork American River. Continuing through the canyon you meet more challenging rapids such as Racehorse Bend, Triple Threat and finally the river’s most difficult rapid of all, Class III+ Troublemaker!

Suddenly the river mellows as we float into the beautiful Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, the site of Gold Discovery in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill. Historic buildings, Nisenan artifacts, and the abundant natural history of the region provide a unique eco-tour.

After lunch, we again board the rafts for the final stage of our journey, the return to camp. Here the MaLode guides love to share what we term “riverskills”. You will have the opportunity to “read” the river’s currents, position the boat properly in turns, and even guide a mellow rapid should you desire!

Appropriately, some of best whitewater excitement is saved for last….. We must navigate Mother Lode’s own Class III rapid, legendary  “Highway”, and attain the MaLode eddy to be home again.

Chili Bar is a morning trip and we are usually off the river by 2:30 pm. Minimum age is 8 years old under normal water flow conditions.

Family Float Trip – Class I-II

Family Rafting on The South Fork American River

Not looking for big Class III whitewater rapids but still want to enjoy being on the South Fork of the American River? Our Family Float Trip is the perfect experience for you!  This trip has class I-II rapids and offers loads of opportunities to swim, play, and take in the beauty of the river.  Recommended minimum age is 8 years old. We can accommodate children as young as 6 who are strong swimmers.

Multi-Day & Combo River Trips

South Fork – 2-Day – CLASS III

Adjust your biological clock to “river time” with an overnight trip. Your second day of rafting can take you to a new stretch of the South Fork, or to a more advanced run on the Middle or North Fork. If one day of rafting was enough, have fun in camp with our Ropes Course and Zip Line or head to the South Fork Trail for fantastic local mountain biking and hiking.

South Fork / Middle Fork / North Fork Combo – Class III/IV

Camp Life

We’ll do all the cooking so you can relax with a good book, snooze in the shade, play a game of volleyball, or just sit and watch the sun set.

Our guides will amaze you with their culinary delights, Dutch-oven-desserts and even a river sauna upon your request.

Enjoy a private campfire and gaze at the stars as the river lulls you to sleep.

Trip Highlights

  • 40 Rapids in 21 Miles
  • Fun Class III Whitewater for all ability levels
  • Scenic river canyon
  • Clear, Calm Pools
  • Skill Level: There are runs appropriate for beginners to advanced boaters.
  • Duration: Half-day Family Float, to the full-day Gorge and Chili Bar runs
  • Age: Family Float and Gorge runs: age 8, Chili Bar: age 8 under normal water flow conditions.
  • Season: April through October
  • Availability: Every day
  • Requirements: Guests must have swimming ability.

One-Day River Trips

Gorge Run – Class III – Including lunch

Rafting with Mother Lode on The South Fork American River Gorge

The Gorge Run begins with mellow Class II rapids and builds to a thrilling crescendo of whitewater. This enables paddlers to hone their paddling skills and grow accustomed to being on the river. As the trip continues the river canyon narrows into the granite-walled ‘Gorge’ where guests will experience a series of continuous Class III rapids including Fowler’s Rock, Satan’s Cesspool , Son of Satan, Scissors, Elevator Shaft, Hospital Bar, and Recovery Room! Your day is finished when you reach Folsom Lake, where our shuttles will greet you with a cold beverage and a ride back to the River Center. Minimum age is 8 years old under normal water flow conditions. 

Gorge Value – Class III Without Lunch

Rafting with Mother Lode on The South Fork American River Gorge

The Gorge Run begins with mellow Class II rapids and builds to a thrilling crescendo of whitewater. This enables paddlers to hone their paddling skills and grow accustomed to being on the river. As the trip continues the river canyon narrows into the granite-walled ‘Gorge’ where guests will experience a series of continuous Class III rapids including Fowler’s Rock, Satan’s Cesspool , Son of Satan, Scissors, Elevator Shaft, Hospital Bar, and Recovery Room! Your day is finished when you reach Folsom Lake, where our shuttles will greet you with a cold beverage and a ride back to the River Center. Minimum age is 8 years old under normal water flow conditions. 

Chili Bar Run- Class III+

Action on this stretch of river starts immediately with Class III Meatgrinder, the longest, most technical rapid on the South Fork American River. Continuing through the canyon you meet more challenging rapids such as Racehorse Bend, Triple Threat and finally the river’s most difficult rapid of all, Class III+ Troublemaker!

Suddenly the river mellows as we float into the beautiful Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, the site of Gold Discovery in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill. Historic buildings, Nisenan artifacts, and the abundant natural history of the region provide a unique eco-tour.

After lunch, we again board the rafts for the final stage of our journey, the return to camp. Here the MaLode guides love to share what we term “riverskills”. You will have the opportunity to “read” the river’s currents, position the boat properly in turns, and even guide a mellow rapid should you desire!

Appropriately, some of best whitewater excitement is saved for last….. We must navigate Mother Lode’s own Class III rapid, legendary  “Highway”, and attain the MaLode eddy to be home again.

Chili Bar is a morning trip and we are usually off the river by 2:30 pm. Minimum age is 8 years old under normal water flow conditions.

Family Float Trip – Class I-II

Family Rafting on The South Fork American River

Not looking for big Class III whitewater rapids but still want to enjoy being on the South Fork of the American River? Our Family Float Trip is the perfect experience for you!  This trip has class I-II rapids and offers loads of opportunities to swim, play, and take in the beauty of the river.  Recommended minimum age is 8 years old. We can accommodate children as young as 6 who are strong swimmers.

Multi-Day & Combo River Trips

South Fork – 2-Day – CLASS III

Adjust your biological clock to “river time” with an overnight trip. Your second day of rafting can take you to a new stretch of the South Fork, or to a more advanced run on the Middle or North Fork. If one day of rafting was enough, have fun in camp with our Ropes Course and Zip Line or head to the South Fork Trail for fantastic local mountain biking and hiking.

South Fork / Middle Fork / North Fork Combo – Class III/IV

MORE AMERICAN RIVER RAFTING

South Fork American River Rafting

The West Coast's Most Popular Class III River

North Fork American River

Advanced Class IV+ Spring Rafting

Middle Fork American River

California’s Most Popular Class IV Whitewater

On-Shore Adventures

Add another exciting element to your trip with our Ropes Course and Zip Line!

Camp Life

We’ll do all the cooking so you can relax with a good book, snooze in the shade, play a game of volleyball, or just sit and watch the sun set.

Our guides will amaze you with their culinary delights, Dutch-oven-desserts and even a river sauna upon your request.

Enjoy a private campfire and gaze at the stars as the river lulls you to sleep.

Special 50th Anniversary Ropes and Rafting Events

Join us on  for a thrilling half-day of high ropes and rafting—no minimum group size required! Celebrate with us and book your adventure now!

Event Dates: June 15th, June 22, July 20th, July 27th, August 10th, August 17th