Groups rafting down the American River.

American River Rafting

A group rafts the South Fork of the American River.

OARS was among the first outfitters to offer American River rafting trips, and more than 50 years later from our riverside Outpost in Lotus, CA, we’re still at it. Today, the American River, which is easily accessible from Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, and the San Francisco Bay Area, is considered the epicenter of California whitewater rafting, with abundant opportunities for first-timers and experienced paddlers alike.

Whether you’re looking for a day of bouncy fun in the sun on a South Fork American River rafting trip, you want to spice things up on a Middle Fork of the American River, or take on the wild and untamed North Fork of the American River, there’s truly something for everyone.

Rafting on the American River is undoubtedly one of California’s top adventures. From short and sweet half-day trips to two-day getaways, explore your options below, grab your crew, and #LetsGoRafting!


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Why raft with OARS on the American River?

Our Experience: Since 1969, we’ve been running whitewater rafting trips in California, across the western U.S., and around the world. From half-day South Fork American River rafting trips to 18-day adventures down Grand Canyon, we have the know-how and expertise to run great trips!

Dedicated Guides & Staff: We are proud to have earned the reputation for having the most experienced, professional, and customer-focused crews on the water. No other company’s guides do as much as ours to ensure you’re having the best trip possible, and we back that up with dedicated regional managers and year-round office staff.

Quality Equipment: We invest in our gear and use top-of-the-line equipment that’s well-maintained. On every American River rafting trip with OARS, you’ll head downstream on the best rafts and be geared up with top-notch equipment, including paddles, helmets, and PFDs.

Commitment to Diversity: We are proud to be an equal opportunity provider. We seek out the best guides and employees regardless of gender or ethnicity and embrace diversity in every customer we serve. We also offer programs to get under-resourced youth on the river through our Foundation.

Environmental Stewardship: We are committed to environmental stewardship and have been since our humble beginning. We support the communities in which we operate, practice Leave No Trace principles, and, in partnership with our guests, we have contributed more than $6 million toward the preservation of the environment.

Family Owned: Although we have a reputation for being a global leader in the adventure travel industry, we are a second-generation family-owned company, and it shows. From your first call to our office to the happy conclusion of your American River rafting trip, we strive to offer a personal experience to every one of our guests – from our family to yours!

What’s the difference between the South Fork, Middle Fork and North Fork of the American River?

South Fork American River Rafting:

The South Fork of the American River offers crisp, clear, refreshing water flowing over spectacular granite rocks and boulders. It’s an ideal balance of adrenaline and fun for families with kids as young as eight. We offer half-day trips on the Chili Bar section, full-day trips through The Gorge with lunch included, the Super 1-day with a night of camping and a hearty breakfast and lunch, as well as wildly fun two-day adventures from April – September.

Minimum Age: 8 years (12 at high water)
River Rating: Class III
River Miles: 8 to 21
Season: April – mid-October

Middle Fork American River Rafting:

For paddlers who want to kick things up a notch, a Middle Fork American River rafting trip won’t disappoint. On this full-day adventure near Auburn, you’ll plunge down a beautiful, boulder-strewn stretch of Class III-IV whitewater, interspersed with scenic calm stretches. It’s the whole package: stunning views, cool Gold Rush history, and adrenaline-inducing rapids like Tunnel Chute, Texas Chainsaw, and Kanaka Falls. We offer one-day trips, as well as two-day trips with a night of riverside camping.

Minimum Age: 14 years (16 at high water)
River Rating: Class IV
River Miles: 16
Season: Mid-May – September

North Fork American River Rafting:

When this wild and untamed stretch of river roars to life from spring runoff, North Fork American River rafting trips offer up some of the best action-packed Class IV+ whitewater in the Sierra Nevada. On this challenging early-season run, intricate boulder gardens, rushing falls, and staircase drops promise intense paddling and plenty of adrenaline-inspiring thrills in exhilarating rapids like Slaughter’s Sluice, Chamberlain Falls, and Bogus Thunder.

Minimum Age: 14 years (16 at high water)
River Rating: Class IV+
River Miles: 10
Season: March – June

Can you combine rafting trips on different parts of the American River?

For those who want to explore multiple forks of the American River, we have two-day combination trips.

Middle Fork / South Fork Chili Bar Combo

This exciting two-day adventure combines a thrilling Class IV Middle Fork American River rafting trip on day one with the splashy, fun South Fork American River Chili Bar run, which gets you off the river by noon on day two, so you can head home or on to your next adventure. Between trips, enjoy a hot shower, camp games, and a night of catered camping so you can kick back with your crew.

South Fork / Middle Fork Rafting Combo

Raft the popular Gorge stretch of the South Fork of the American River before stepping up the action on a Middle Fork American River rafting trip for the ultimate two-day California whitewater adventure. This hassle-free getaway includes guide-prepared meals and a night of catered camping at our Outpost.

South Fork / North Fork Rafting Combo

This one-of-a-kind California whitewater adventure begins with a day of warm-up rapids on the Gorge stretch of the South Fork American River before cranking things up the next day on an exhilarating North Fork American rafting trip. In between trips, kick back at the Outpost and enjoy guide-prepared meals and a night of catered camping.

What amenities does the OARS American River Outpost have?

The OARS American River Outpost is a campground conveniently located on the banks of the South Fork in Lotus, CA, and is owned and operated by OARS. The Outpost offers everything you need to extend the fun of your trip, including bathrooms, showers, pre-set tents with sleeping accommodations, a few camp games, and a small store with snacks, sunscreen, sunwear, and souvenirs. More about the Outpost can be found here.

Discover your next OARS Adventure

Group white water rafting in the American River.

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