The most challenging stretch of the American River promises plenty of adrenaline-inspiring Class IV thrills and non-stop whitewater, followed by a stretch of more moderate Class II-III rapids.
The Wild & Scenic North Fork of the 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 right out of the gate delivers rapid after rapid of white-knuckling Class IV whitewater. Intricate boulder gardens, rushing falls, and staircase drops promise intense paddling and plenty of adrenaline-inspiring thrills through this scenic canyon. Towering 2,000-foot cliffs with blankets of green grass and colorful wildflowers amidst black oak and pine forests provide a spectacular backdrop, especially during a final stretch of more moderate rapids. This trip is an easy jaunt from Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, or the Bay Area and is well worth the journey for both exhilarating whitewater and classic California wilderness scenery.
Save 10% When you Book Online
What to Expect
Itinerary & Map
Itinerary at a Glance
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every North Fork American River rafting trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, and sometimes the weather. The following is a sample of what your trip might be like:
Meeting Time & Place
13384 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA 95603
Look for the OARS vans and staff in the back parking lot behind Raley’s.
Weekdays 9 AM; Weekends vary due to launch times assigned to us by CA State Parks
Trip lasts approximately 5 hours, depending on water levels
Camp With Us!
Limited camping for rafters is available before and/or after your trip at the OARS American River Outpost in Lotus. All nights of camping are $15 per person/night. Advance reservations are required. Please ask an Adventure Consultant about the details of staying at our beautiful riverside camp.
Located on twelve gorgeous acres, stretching over a third of a mile on the riverfront, the OARS campground offers modern shower and bathroom facilities, a small store (cash currently not accepted; cards and electronic payments only), beach and river access, camp games, and free WiFi. All within a few minutes walk of Sierra Rizing Bakery & Coffee House and a handful of other local restaurants.
Don’t have your own gear? Rental options include:
- Sleep Kit (sleeping bag, pad, pillow & sheet): $25 per person
- 2-Person Tent: $30
- 4-Person Family Tent: $50
- 2-Person Pre-set Platform Tent (with 2 comfy twin beds, all bedding, and a private deck with two chairs): $99/night + $15/person/night camping fee
Please note that camping reservations must be made in advance of arrival and guests may check-in between 3:30 and 8 PM. Platform tents are refundable if canceled at least two calendar days prior to scheduled arrival; cancellations within 48 hours of scheduled arrival will be non-refundable.
Dates & Prices
April – June: Daily
Full payment is required at the time of booking.
• $8 per person federal, state, and local access fees
• Wetsuits are required on all North Fork American River Trips and are included free of charge
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to the meeting place and back
- River access fees
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Wetsuit booties or shoes of any kind
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
The number and variety of boats on an OARS trip will vary based on water levels, the number of participants, and other factors we take into account when planning your adventure. Please be aware that in doing so we will ask you to share boat time with your fellow travelers. We don’t assign boats, nor can we guarantee exactly which crafts we bring, but trust us to provide you with the best possible mix for you and others on your trip.
Learn more about the OARS Fleet and the boats that may be a part of your experience: Paddle raft
A delicious riverside picnic lunch is provided on North Fork American River rafting trips. We’ll pull ashore mid-day and your guides will lay out an abundant spread of cold cuts, cheeses, veggies, and breads, or perhaps a fresh Caesar salad wrap or tasty taco salad for roll-your-own burritos. Lunch is always accompanied by fruit, cookies, cold water, and lemonade.
Please let us know if you have any dietary needs that we’ll need to consider in planning your trip. More info about Meals & Dietary Restrictions can be found on our Trip Resources page.
Average Air & Water Temperatures
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water °F|
Water levels sufficient for rafting on the North Fork of the American River during the spring and early summer months are relatively short-lived each season. It is important for our guests to understand that the water flow on the North Fork fluctuates greatly. The river’s free-flowing waters—dependent solely on snowmelt, without dams or reservoirs in the way—keep its season short and sweet! North Fork river trips run from April to as late as mid-June, depending on the preceding winter.
Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.
- Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 260 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria.
- Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us.
- Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms online and submit them no later than 30 days prior to your trip, or immediately if booking within 30 days.
Full payment is required at the time of booking. Payments may be made by check, money order, or Visa/Mastercard (American Express and Discover incur a 3% processing fee). Prices are in US Dollars, and all payments must be made in US Dollars. Payment establishes your acceptance of our complete Terms and Conditions. Individual departures and trip capacity are strictly limited by the managing agency.
Canceling your trip after your payment has been processed will incur cancellation fees because OARS has absorbed costs on your behalf and will turn others away who would like to book the spaces we’re holding for you.
Cancellations and Refunds
Your payment is fully refundable for 48 hours, less a 3% processing fee, after making a reservation when you reserve a trip 7 days or more prior to departure.
If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below. We regret we cannot make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including foul weather, poor air quality, wildfire activity, acts of terrorism, civil unrest, or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.
|Date of Cancellation||Cancellation Fee|
|30 or more days before your trip||$15/person|
|29 – 7 days before your trip||Payment can be transferred to another trip for a fee of $30/person within the same year or $30/person to the following year. No refund.|
|6 days or less before your trip||50% of the trip cost can be credited to another trip (within the same year)|
|Late arrivals or “no shows”||No refund or credit|
Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.
OARS reserves the right to cancel any trip due to insufficient registration or other factors that make the trip impractical to operate. In such instances, we will inform you at least 7 days before departure. Do not make nonrefundable travel arrangements unless you have spoken to your Adventure Consultant regarding the status of your trip.
If a trip must be canceled or postponed due to force majeure (factors outside the control of OARS), OARS will provide full credit for payments made toward future travel, or a refund less a 5% service fee plus any nonrefundable payments made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers. OARS will make good faith efforts to recover deposits made on your behalf to 3rd-party suppliers, however, we can’t guarantee recovery of any or all of the advance payments made. OARS is not responsible for expenses incurred by participants in preparation for a canceled trip.
If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same year, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $15/person fee up until 30 days prior to departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. If we are 29-7 days prior to your trip departure, there is a $30/person fee to transfer to another trip, within the same year only. Transfer requests made 6 days or less prior to departure, 50% of your trip cost can be credited to another trip, within the same year only. Transfer requests made the day of departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.
O.A.R.S. West, Inc. is a permitted outfitter of the California Department of Parks and Recreation Gold Fields District.
Ancestral Lands Acknowledgement
We respect and recognize that many of the river canyons on state and federal lands where we operate are the ancestral homes of indigenous communities. Where we operate on the North Fork of the American River between Iowa Hill Bridge and Lake Clementine, we acknowledge the territories of the Nisenan.
You May Also Like
Use our Compare tool to find your perfect Adventure.