South Fork American River Rafting Near Sacramento

2 days of exciting California whitewater rafting on the South Fork American River

2 Days from $269

View Dates & Prices


  • Raft 21 miles of the popular South Fork American River in 2 days
  • Enjoy delicious meals prepared by your guides
  • Cool off in the river while swimming through fun rapids & calm pools
  • Play volleyball or horseshoes
  • Camp at our riverside campground with showers, restrooms, & camp store

Adventure Overview

Rafting the South Fork of the American River near Sacramento is the perfect weekend getaway or 2-day add-on to a family vacation in California. Steeped in Gold Rush history, the American River is lined with oak and pine forests which tumble through the Sierra Nevada foothills, creating rolling valleys and gorges which mirror the flows and rolling rapids of this classic California river. And the best part? You can find scenic wilderness, gold rush history and wonderful whitewater rafting on the American River just an hour away from Sacramento. Our South Fork American River Rafting 2-day trip in California is one of our guests’ all time favorite whitewater rafting adventures and offers two fun-packed days of exciting whitewater combined with overnight riverside camping at OARS American River Outpost.


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iconItinerary & Map

Itinerary & Map

  • OARS 2-Day South Fork American River rafting trip begins at OARS American River Outpost
  • Board rafts for a day of fun and sun on the exciting Gorge section of the river
  • Experience the biggest, most exciting whitewater on the South Fork, including Fowler's Rock, Satan's Cesspool and Hospital Bar
  • Salmon Falls Bridge signals the end of the South Fork American River rafting trip, where a shuttle awaits for the ride back to OARS American River Outpost
  • Take a swim or a shower; join a game of volleyball or horseshoes, while dinner is prepared.
  • Enjoy hors d'oeuvres and cold drinks before a scrumptious evening meal
  • After dinner perhaps a cheerful campfire will encourage a gathering filled with conversation, stories and laughter
  • Following a hearty breakfast the next morning, take a 25-minute shuttle ride to the Chili Bar section of the South Fork American River
  • Meatgrinder rapid is the exciting initiation to day two of splashy, big-water fun on the upper section of the river
  • Racehorse Bend, Triple Threat and Troublemaker deliver more thrills as the rafts float through golden hills blanketed with greenery
  • Float through several fun Class II rapids where calm pools drift in-between exciting stretches of whitewater
  • Those wishing to cool off and swim before getting back to camp are encouraged to jump in
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Meeting Place

OARS American River Outpost

Address: 7330 River Park Drive, Lotus, CA 95651
GPS Coordinates: 38.806327, -120.903538

Adjacent to where Hwy 49 crosses the river, behind Hotshot Imaging and the River Park shopping center

Meeting Time

10:30 or 11:00 AM (Refer to pre-trip email)

Camp with us! Click here to learn more about complimentary camping for rafters before or after your trip! In addition to secluded woodland campsites, we also offer comfortable pre-set platform tents with twin beds, lofty comforters, sheets & pillows from $85 per night. Additional campground amenities include men’s and women’s bathrooms with hot showers and flush toilets, camp store, games and free WiFi.
Please note that camping reservations must be made in advance of arrival and check-in times are from 3:30 to 8:00 PM.

View our Campground Map

View our South Fork driving directions

Information for this Mile by Mile guide was gathered from the books “California Whitewater” and “A Guide to the Best Whitewater in the State of California”, as well as from a variety of sources on the Internet.

  • Mile 0

    Put-in (start) for OARS Upper South Fork American River Chili Bar rafting trips.

  • Mile 0.3

    CHILI BAR HOLE (II). For many years Chili Bar Hole was the site of the Chili Bar Rodeo. On low-water years, the competition moved downstream to First Threat Rapid. Chili Bar was named after the Chilean road builders during the early Gold Rush days. A ‘hole’ is created when the river current drops over a rock or ledge and circulates instead of continuing its downstream flow.

  • Mile 0.6

    MEATGRINDER (III). A long rock garden with big waves and a hidden boulder at the bottom. Meatgrinder is also known as Quarter Mile Rapid because of its length. At high flows, this rapid has some huge waves and holes.

  • Mile 1.3

    RACEHORSE BEND (II+). At Racehorse Bend rapid, the river drops and bends left, pushing current into the right wall.

  • Mile 1.5

    MAYA (II-III) There is normally a pretty easy run down the middle, but there is a big hole at higher flows. There is a sneak route on the far right.

  • Mile 1.8

    ROCK GARDEN (II). As its name implies, this is a rock garden to be maneuvered through with skill.

  • Mile 3.0

    Site of old miner’s cabin on right bank.

  • Mile 3.1

    TRIPLE THREAT (III). Three separate drops, and all three can be run down the middle – with lots of bouncy, splashy fun. First Threat Rapid is a favorite kayak surfing hole and site of the American River Festival Rodeo. The third drop is after a sharp left-hand bend.

  • Mile 5.1

    TROUBLEMAKER (III+). This is the biggest rapid on the upper section of this whitewater rafting trip. The river bends sharply right and then left, passing Gunsight Rock. It’s also sometimes referred to as “S-Turn” rapid. Professional photographers frequently are stationed riverside, as are a host of whitewater enthusiasts who are often cheering and applauding as you pass through the rapid. You may review and/or purchase photos after completing your American River rafting experience.

  • Mile 5.2-10.6

    Easy Class I and II rapids. Pass the historic Gold Rush town of Coloma.

  • Mile 5.2

    American River Resort. A short drive on Hwy 49 from the James Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, the resort offers riverside lodging, camping and hookup sites.

  • Mile 5.5

    Coloma Resort. This is located on the banks of the American River and is adjacent to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.

  • Mile 5.6

    Coloma Bridge. Built in 1917, also known as the “one-way bridge.” There is no parking or river access.

  • Mile 6.0

    Marshall Gold Discovery State Historical Park. The park is located where gold was first discovered in California and sprawls across both sides of the highway, encompassing a museum, a full-scale replica of Sutter’s Mill as well as a ghost town of restored period buildings and Gold Rush artifacts. At the museum you can learn how to pan for gold. Bekeart’s Gun Shop, located in the Park, offers similar activities and old-fashioned trade goods.

  • Mile 6.6

    BEGINNER’S HOLE RAPID (II) Also known as “Taco Bender” this is a fun play spot for kayakers.

  • Mile 7.1

    OLD SCARY (II). The river bends sharply left, with an island midstream. Old Scary used to be one of the most difficult rapids on the Chili Bar-to-Coloma section of the South Fork until high water in 1982 changed the rapid.

  • Mile 7.3

    LAUGHING EDDY (II). Also known as Blue House Eddy or Whiplash. There is a sharp-edged eddy on river left, at the blue house shortly above the bridge. An eddy is an area of usually calm water behind or downstream of an obstruction in the main current, such as a rock, where water flows counter to that of the main current.

  • Mile 7.4

    Highway 49 bridge and highway access.

  • Mile 8.0

    TAKE OUT (end) for OARS Chili Bar trips.
    TAKE OUT for the South Fork American River Chili Bar Run is at OARS American River Outpost.

  • Mile 8.0

    The meeting location and put-in (start) of our Lower South Fork American River Gorge Run trip is the private OARS American River Outpost 7330 River Park Drive, Lotus, CA  95651: Located on twelve gorgeous acres, stretching over a third of a mile on the riverfront, offers modern shower and bathroom facilities, a sand volleyball court, horseshoe rings, tons of lawn game sets, and an unequaled list of amenities for your comfort.

  • Mile 11.1

    HIGHWAY RAPID (II+). A long, curving rock garden.

  • Mile 11.5

    SWIMMER’S RAPID. Swimmer’s Rapid is a great spot for rafting passengers to jump in and experience what it feels like to swim a rapid. It is a fun wave train rapid.

  • Mile 12.2

    Public restrooms. These are the only public facilities on the South Fork American River whitewater rafting trip.

  • Mile 13.9

    Gorilla Rock. This rock, sometimes referred to as Convict Rock, really looks like a gorilla.

  • Mile 15.8

    FOWLER’S ROCK (III) Fowler’s Rock is the first big rapid on the South Fork’s lower section.  The river bends left into a short pool then back to the right where a boulder cluster marks the entry to the rapid.

    Interesting fact: Entrance to ‘The Gorge’ occurs after the third sighting of the Lollipop Tree. This tree can be spotted atop a distant hill and does indeed resemble a lollipop.

  • Mile 16.9

    SATAN’S CESSPOOL (III+). Satan’s is the biggest rapid in the Gorge Run of the South Fork American River. A rock above the final drop provides a good vantage point for photographers and spectators. Professional photographers are frequently stationed here with their cameras.

  • Mile 17.0


  • Mile 17.4

    SCISSORS (III). The river turns left down a narrow, rocky chute with big, irregular waves.

  • Mile 17.6

    LOWER HAYSTACK CANYON (II+). A fun, bouncy rapid with big standing waves and short drops in a narrow section.

  • Mile 18.1

    Weber Creek – a large, year-round creek on river left.

  • Mile 18.2

    BOUNCING ROCK (II+). This rapid provides a bouncy whitewater ride.

  • Mile 18.6

    HOSPITAL BAR (III). Named for a medical tent set up here during the Gold Rush, this is the last big, splashy rapid on The Gorge Run. The rapid is a rock chute that bends left and then right. It provides surprising whitewater fun. Professional photographers are sometimes stationed here with their cameras.

  • Mile 18.8

    RECOVERY ROOM (II+). Big, fun waves and clean drops.

  • Mile 19.4

    SURPRISE RAPID (II). If the Folsom Reservoir is full, there will be a flat-water paddle or a tow-out, and this rapid will be under water. Class II rapids continue to mile 20 if the reservoir is low. It is a treat to find Surprise Rapid uncovered!

  • Mile 20.5

    TAKE OUT (end) for OARS Gorge Run trips.
    TAKE OUT for the South Fork American River Gorge Run is at Salmon Falls Bridge at Folsom Reservoir.

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    Destination River
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    Meeting Parking
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    Point of interest
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    Take Out
iconDates & Prices


  • Monday & Thursday:
    Adult $299
    Youth  $269
  • Saturday: $349

Additional Cost: $16 per person federal, state and local access fees

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

Ask about our free camping for rafters!*

Rental Options:

  • Sleep Kit (sleeping bag, pad, pillow & sheet): $25 per person for up to 2 nights
  • 2-Person Tent: $30 for up to 2 nights
  • 4-Person Family Tent: $50 for up to 2 nights
  • 2-Person Pre-set Platform Tent (with 2 cots & sleep kits):
    Sunday through Thursday: $85 per night
    Friday, Saturday & Select Sundays (May 28, July 2, September 3): $100 per night

*Camping for non-rafters: $10 per person per night

Departure Dates

Monday, Thursday & Saturday

April through September