California > North Fork American River Rafting
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North Fork American River Rafting

1 Day from $134
Trip Highlights
  • North Fork American River rafting in the beautiful California foothills
  • Snowmelt creates nonstop Class IV whitewater rafting action
  • Paddle through a beautiful gorge with 2000-foot cliffs, green grass, wildflowers and forests
  • Raft Chamberlain Falls with a crashing 8-foot drop
  • Zig-Zag, Achilles Heal, and Bogus Thunder rapids provide more whitewater excitement
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Outside Travel Awards 'Best Outfitter' Runner Up National Geographic Adventure Magazine - Best River & Sea Outfitter on Earth As Featured On 50 Tours of a Lifetime - National Geographic Traveller Best of the Bay Area Winner

Call Toll Free: 800-346-6277 or enter the month and year you want to go on this trip.
The season runs April - June.

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Departure Dates
Selected Dates: April - June

20% Discount for Groups of 12 or More! (call for details)

$155 Weekdays!

$134 Wednesdays!!!

$175 Weekend

Additional Cost:
$8 per person per day federal, state and local access fees

River Rating Minimum Age
Class IV14 (16 during high water)
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California Rafting on the North Fork American River - Nose Stand Rapid Photo Credit: Justin Bailie
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Class IV Splash on the North Fork ~Photo Credit: Justin Bailie
Paddle Rafting the North Fork American in California Photo Credit: Justin Bailie
Rapids on the North Fork American River ~Photo Credit: Justin Bailie
Big Whitewater on the American River Photo Credit: Justin Bailie
Class IV Whitewater Rafting - North Fork American River, Chamberlain Falls
North Fork American River Whitewater Rafitng - Chamberlain Falls
O.A.R.S. Guide Steve Paddling the North Fork
Paddling the North Fork
Wild & Scenic North Fork Photo Credit: Justin Bailie
California Rafting Photo Credit: Justin Bailie

North Fork American River Rafting: Overview

Download Itinerary

The North Fork American River near Sacramento, CA provides an extraordinary California whitewater rafting experience. The North Fork of the American is the most challenging fork of the American River, and rapid after Class IV rapid deliver nearly non-stop, white-knuckling whitewater, followed by a stretch of more gentle Class II-III rapids. Intricate boulder gardens, rushing falls and staircase drops promise intense paddling and plenty of adrenaline-inspiring thrills through the 2000-foot cliffs as blankets of green grass and colorful wildflowers amidst black oak and pine forests provide a spectacular backdrop. This trip is an easy jaunt from Sacramento or the Bay Area and well worth the journey for both exhilarating whitewater and classic California wilderness scenery.

North Fork American River Rafting: Itinerary at a Glance

  • Our North Fork American River Rafting trip begins with tumultuous river action which starts immediately as the rafts enter Chamberlain Falls Gorge. Class IV rapids and the crashing 8-foot Chamberlain Falls provide a surefire surge of adrenaline
  • Zig-Zag, Achilles Heal and Bogus Thunder are among the continuous steep drops and boulder slaloms we negotiate
  • After several miles of aggressive paddling through some of the state’s best whitewater, the end of the Class IV section nears, but not before facing Staircase, the river's most infamous rapid
  • Float through a breathtaking exhibit of the Sierra Nevada's striking scenery between towering 2000-foot canyon walls of polished granite, clear water, spring-green grasses, deep woods and brightly colored wildflowers
  • At take-out on Upper Lake Clementine, a shuttle waits to take us back to our vehicles for the conclusion of our North Fork American River Rafting trip

Special Trip Note: A delicious lunch will be provided either before, during or after this trip depending on our government-regulated start time

20% Discount for Groups of 12 or More!
Call 1.800.446.7238 or 1.209.736.2597

Show Mile By Mile Guide

Rafting the North Fork of the American River:
Mile by Mile Guide

Mile 0
Colfax-Iowa Hill Road bridge.  Put-in (start) for O.A.R.S. North Fork American Whitewater Rafting trips. The North Fork American River was granted Wild and Scenic status in1978.  This classic California whitewater river is free flowing, with spring run-off dependent on Sierra snow pack.  This river is typically run from April through May, when the wildflowers are in full bloom.  The area around the North Fork of the American River is paradise for hiking and mountain biking enthusiasts.
Mile 0.4
FLAKE ROCK.  There is a 10-foot high knife-edge rock that guards the right side of the entrance to Slaughter’s Sluice rapid.
Mile 0.5
SLAUGHTER’S SLUICE (III-IV) There are house-sized rocks in this boulder slalom rapid that require attentive paddling.  Most of the boulders you see have been rolled downstream by floods and have been caught in the narrow, constricted canyon.
Mile 0.8
CHAMBERLAIN’S FALLS (IV+)  The river funnels into a narrow slot with an eight foot drop, pushing the boat into a big reversal, also known as a hole, at the bottom.  You may be caught in a turbulent eddy between the reversal and the left bank.
Mile 1.6
ZIG ZAG (IV)  Lots of tricky boulder dodging and attentive paddling.  Start center and move right then quickly back to the left.
Mile 2.0
FERN WALL. On river left there is a wall of ferns and wildflowers.
Mile 2.4
BOGUS THUNDER (IV) Another classic North Fork of the American River rapid.  This boulder slalom is most difficult at low water when the right side becomes very rocky.
Mile 2.7
GRAND SLALOM (IV) A collection of very large boulders form a long, technical maze.
Mile 3.0
STAIRCASE (IV+) There are three river-wide ledges in this rapid.  The rapid begins with a drop into some waves, followed by a right ferry aided by slow moving water, followed by a final move to line-up for the drops.  Below Staircase rapid are high ledges along both banks that are “hard accumulations of lava with pillow structures, indicating that they were formed on the ocean floor 350 million years ago.”
Mile 3.3
Canyon Creek, river left.
Mile 3.8
Indian Creek, river left, leads to a picturesque 30-foot waterfall.
Mile 5.0
River Access.  Shirttail Canyon Creek, river left, just above the Colfax-Foresthill Road bridge.
Mile 6.5
Brushy Creek, river right.
Mile 7.5
Big Bend.  The river makes a long, horseshoe-shaped bend.
Mile 9
Ponderosa Way Bridge.  Take out. Hot/cold drinks and a return shuttle to your vehicle wait at the take-out of your O.A.R.S. North Fork American River rafting trip.

Information for this Mile by Mile guide was gathered from the books "California Whitewater," "A Guide to the Best Whitewater in the State of California" and "The American River, North, South & Middle Forks," as well as from a variety of sources on the Internet.


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"What I like the most is knowing I can always rely on O.A.R.S. to do a great job. The guides are excellent and the trips are always very well organized. I particularly appreciate that O.A.R.S. pays careful attention to safety. For example, on this trip, I noticed that there was both a safety boat and a rescue kayak. My guide gave an excellent 'safety talk' before the trip, and, then, before the most challenging rapids, again emphasized key precautions. I think the North Fork American is a great trip. Even though it's only a one-day trip, it provides a real sense of wilderness and adventure. I intend to go on the North Fork with O.A.R.S. again next year."
Diane McCarthy ~El Dorado Hills, CA

“The guides were friendly, practiced, and extremely laid back - it really makes all the difference to remember your life is in the hands of the guides and then have really caring, capable people.”
Mara Flores Naumann

North Fork American River Rafting - 1 Day Trip Planner

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Average Temperatures
Month Low High
April 39° 66°
May 44° 74°
June 49° 81°
Water Temperatures
Seasonal Average: 40° F

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Company Info

O.A.R.S. is an author ized concessioner of Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Canyon and Grand Te ton National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument.
Outside Travel Awards 'Best Outfitter' Runner Up National Geographic Adventure Magazine - Best River & Sea Outfitter on Earth As Featured On 50 Tours of a Lifetime - National Geographic Traveler Mindy Gleason, O.A.R.S. Reservations Manager Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist 2007-2013 (River Rafting) Best of the Bay Area Winner

For consecutive years, O.A.R.S. has been named the "Best River & Sea Outfitter on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure and one of the top two outfitters in the world by Outside Magazine in its annual Active Travel Awards recognition program. In multiple years, O.A.R.S.trips have been honored as "50 Tours of a Lifetime" by National Geographic Traveler and since 2007, Condé Nast Traveler has recognized Mindy Gleason, O.A.R.S. Reservation Manager and International Adventure Travel Consultant, as Condé Nast Traveler's standalone Top Travel Specialist in the River Rafting category.

Questions about trips or making reservations? Contact or call 800-346-6277 in the USA or Canada or 1-209-736-4677 if outside the USA or Canada.
O.A.R.S. Companies Inc.,
PO Box 67, Angels Camp, CA 95222