The Gorge on the South Fork American River is California’s most popular whitewater rafting trip for a reason–it’s a day of pure fun!
This full-day adventure down the lower 13-mile stretch of the South Fork American River offers some of the most exciting Class II & III whitewater in the state and is perfect for beginners, families, staff outings, and anyone who wants a day out paddling in the California sunshine. The trip begins with several miles of bouncy, stress-free rapids before things get a little spicier in the Gorge with big waves, challenging chutes, drops, and unforgettable rapids like Satan’s Cesspool and Hospital Bar.
Whether you’re new to rafting and just want to “get your feet wet,” or you only have time for a quick getaway, our 1-day South Fork American River rafting trip through the Gorge will surely be a perfect choice. About an hour from Sacramento, and just an hour and a half from Lake Tahoe, rafting the South Fork of the American River is a quick and relatively easy option for an exciting family or group adventure. Splashy good times are guaranteed.
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What to Expect
Itinerary & Map
Itinerary at a Glance
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every South Fork American River Rafting Gorge 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
OARS American River Outpost, Lotus, CA
Between 10:30-11:30 AM (depending on departure day & group sizes)
4 – 5 PM, 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:
- 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
- Sleep Kit (sleeping bag, pad, pillow & sheet): $25 per person
- 2-Person Tent: $30
- 4-Person Family Tent: $50
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
Late March – Labor Day: Daily
September: Thursday – Sunday
Full payment is required at the time of booking.
• $8 per person federal, state, and local access fees
• Wetsuits included/required on early season and cold weather day
The Need-to-Know Info
Included in Your Trip Cost
Not Included in Your Trip Cost
- Transportation to and from our meeting location at our American River Outpost
- River access fees
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Sleep kits or tents, if you are staying overnight with us (available for rent)
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
- Wetsuit booties or shoes of any kind
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, paddle raft with oar assist.
A delicious riverside picnic lunch is provided on South 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|
The South Fork’s exciting Class III whitewater is near-perfect fun for the whole family and groups! The water on the South Fork is released during summer months from hydroelectric facilities located upstream. Such water releases are not subject to the control of El Dorado County or commercial rafting companies.
Before booking your trip with OARS, there are a few important considerations we’d like you to know about.
Reservations and Deposits
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 of the deposit 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 – 3 days before your trip||Payment can be transferred to another trip within the same year (or to a credit account for the following year) for $15/person transfer fee. No refund.|
|2 days or less before your trip||50% of the trip cost can be credited to another trip (within the same year). No refund.|
|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 prior to 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 3 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. If we are 2 days or less before your trip departure, 50% of your trip cost can be credited to another trip, within the same year only. Transfer requests made 2 days or less before departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.
O.A.R.S. West, Inc. is a permitted outfitter of El Dorado County & 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 South Fork of the American River between Chili Bar and Salmon Falls Bridge, we acknowledge the territories of the Nisenan.
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