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
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.
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Put-in (start) for OARS Upper South Fork American River Chili Bar rafting trips.
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.
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.
RACEHORSE BEND (II+). At Racehorse Bend rapid, the river drops and bends left, pushing current into the right wall.
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.
ROCK GARDEN (II). As its name implies, this is a rock garden to be maneuvered through with skill.
Site of old miner’s cabin on right bank.
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.
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.
Easy Class I and II rapids. Pass the historic Gold Rush town of Coloma.
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.
Coloma Resort. This is located on the banks of the American River and is adjacent to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.
Coloma Bridge. Built in 1917, also known as the “one-way bridge.” There is no parking or river access.
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.
BEGINNER’S HOLE RAPID (II) Also known as “Taco Bender” this is a fun play spot for kayakers.
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.
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.
Highway 49 bridge and highway access.
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.
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.
HIGHWAY RAPID (II+). A long, curving rock garden.
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.
Public restrooms. These are the only public facilities on the South Fork American River whitewater rafting trip.
Gorilla Rock. This rock, sometimes referred to as Convict Rock, really looks like a gorilla.
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.
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.
SON OF SATAN’S or DEAD MAN’S DROP (II+).
SCISSORS (III). The river turns left down a narrow, rocky chute with big, irregular waves.
LOWER HAYSTACK CANYON (II+). A fun, bouncy rapid with big standing waves and short drops in a narrow section.
Weber Creek – a large, year-round creek on river left.
BOUNCING ROCK (II+). This rapid provides a bouncy whitewater ride.
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.
RECOVERY ROOM (II+). Big, fun waves and clean drops.
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!
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.