Before You Go

California Whitewater Guide School

Overview

Trip Snapshot

We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and flexible schedule. Every trip is different depending upon the group, other trips on the water, and sometimes the weather. Please refer to your confirmation letter for the exact dates of your trip.

MEETING PLACE:OARS American River Outpost, 7330 River Park Drive, Lotus, CA 95651
MEETING TIME:5 PM, the evening before your trip
RETURN TIME:Approximately 4:00 PM on the last day of school
RIVER RATING:Class III-IV
RIVERS:South Fork American, Middle Fork American, or North Fork American River
TRIP LENGTH:9 days/8 nights
BOAT OPTIONS:Paddle raft

Itinerary at a Glance


The Day Before Your Trip

Meet at 5 PM at the OARS American River Outpost for introductions and an overview of the week ahead. Your guide school instructors will greet you and direct you toward the meeting location. If you arrive early, check in with the camp store and they will point you in the right direction. 

Your instructors will issue all OARS-provided river equipment (PFD, helmet, wetsuit) and do a personal gear check to make sure you are prepared for the week ahead.

At this time, we’ll also give a tour of the campsite, kitchen, and facilities for your convenience during the week. 

Day 1

  • Each morning will start at the OARS American River Outpost with a hearty breakfast and a morning briefing. 
  • We’ll jump right into Swiftwater Rescue, so plan for two days of challenging, hands-on, full immersion, skill-based training that we will use as a foundation for the rest of the guide school. 
  • Each evening, you will come back to the American River Outpost for dinner in our camp kitchen and prepare for the next day.
  • Refer to the trip page for a more detailed day-to-day sample itinerary.

Day 9

  • After running the Chili Bar section of the South Fork on the final day of guide school, we will return to the OARS American River Outpost to begin wrapping up the course, starting with lunch in camp, while you pack up your campsite. 
  • The OARS instructors will sit down and give an evaluation of your week with OARS and discuss future steps catered to each individual’s progression. The last day typically wraps up at approximately 4 PM.

Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Skilled, personable, and professional guide instructors
  • ‘Rescue 3’ River Rescue Certification
  • 10 nights camping at the OARS American River Outpost
  • Meals from lunch on day 1 through lunch on day 9 (9 lunches, 8 dinners, and 8 breakfasts)
  • OARS California Guide School Book
  • Personal equipment including a tent, splash jacket, and wetsuit 
  • High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment, including a paddle, helmet, and personal flotation device
  • All transfers between the OARS American River Outpost and the various rivers we will float

Not Included in Your Trip Cost

  • Transportation to and from the OARS American River Outpost
  • River Access Fees
  • Pre- and post-course accommodations and meals
  • Sleeping bag and a deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad (sleep kits may be rented from OARS)
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Items of a personal nature, including wetsuit booties
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Dry Suit (can be rented from a local outfitter or online)
  • Gratuities for your OARS Instructors

Available for Rent

Please indicate on your guest registration form whether you want to rent a sleep kit or if you prefer to bring your own.

  • Sleep Kit: $40 per person. Includes a sleeping bag, a deluxe 3-inch thick and air-filled sleeping pad, ground tarp, sheet, pillow, and pillowcase
  • Sleeping Pad Only: The deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled sleeping pad only may be rented for $10
  • 2-Person Tent: We provide 2-person tents

Getting Ready


Pre-Trip Checklist

Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: Learn more about the plan we highly recommend and get a quote.

Trip Forms: Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation email for the link to the online forms. If you prefer to fill out paper forms, please let us know right away. If you are reserving within 30 days of departure, your forms must be completed immediately to ensure we can properly plan for your trip.

Reserve flights, shuttles, and lodging: Verify with your adventure consultant that your trip has met minimum numbers prior to booking flights and/or reserving overnight lodging for the night before and after your trip, if applicable. It is important to make reservations early as rooms may be limited during peak travel periods.

Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. 

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

Payments: Final payment is due in our office 60 days before your trip (refer to your invoice for final payment date). Please let us know if you would like us to automatically charge your credit card on file when final payment is due.

River Runners’ Responsibility Code

1. Read the pre-trip literature and arrive at the meeting place on time.

2. Understand the risks: your safety is ultimately your responsibility.

3. Treat your fellow guests and guides with respect and courtesy; harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.

4. Wear clothing and personal protective equipment suitable for the current conditions.

5. Listen to and follow the guides’ instructions.

6. Abide by the managing agency’s rules.

7. No drugs or alcohol prior to, or during, your trip.; alcohol is allowed in moderation in camp on overnight trips.

8. Minimize your impact on the environment.

9. Wear the OARS-issued and properly–fitted Personal Flotation Device (PFD) at all times when in the boats or swimming. Wear a helmet when required.

10. Your children are your responsibility!


Travel Arrangements


GETTING TO THE OARS AMERICAN RIVER OUTPOST

View driving directions to the Outpost. Our entrance is adjacent to where Hwy 49 crosses the river and the River Park shopping center

By Air

The closest major airport is in Sacramento (SMF), which is served by most major airlines and car rental companies. The drive time from Sacramento is approximately one hour. Oakland (OAK), San Francisco (SFO), and Reno (RNO) are within a 3-hour drive.

By Shuttle from the Sacramento Airport

Parking 

If you’re arriving by car, parking is available at the Outpost during your trip. Trucks, vans, or vehicles with rooftop tents, RVs, and trailers less than 30’ long may be welcome to be parked in our parking lot, with advance notice. Hook-ups are not available. Generators are strictly prohibited. 

OARS cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage to vehicles or their contents.

PRE- AND POST-TRIP ACCOMMODATIONS

Limited camping 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 or click here.


Useful Information


DIETARY RESTRICTIONS

Beyond our standard menu, we can provide options for vegetarian, vegan, and many allergy-restricted diets without applying a fee. However, we cannot always provide the same diversity or sophistication for restricted diets as we do for our regular menu. Similarly, certain allergen-free snack foods are difficult or impossible to source in our locations, so feel free to bring your own favorite snacks to supplement our provisions. Please let your Adventure Consultant know if you intend to do so.

BEVERAGES/WATER

We provide plenty of water and lemonade and two sodas per person per day. You are welcome to bring your own favorite beverages, alcoholic (assuming you are at least 21 years of age) or non-alcoholic, in non-glass containers. For your safety and the safety of others, alcoholic beverages are limited to evening enjoyment, after class is over.

BATHING

The OARS American River Outpost has hot showers and flush toilets for use during your stay.

WILDFIRES & SMOKE

Fire activity can impact the air quality on our trips, and occasionally wildfires may be present in the immediate vicinity of where we’re traveling. In general, we will not cancel a trip on account of smoky conditions, except in cases of clear danger to life or property. 

Learn more about rafting during wildfire season with OARS, including info about some of our protocols and travel protection recommendations.

Click on the links below for additional information on the following topics:


Weather


Leading up to your trip, we recommend checking for an up-to-date weather forecast for Coloma, CA. However, it’s always important to be prepared for changing weather, especially during the months of April, May, and early June when California can experience extreme changes in weather.

Average Air & Water Temperatures

 Air (Day)°FAir (Night)°FWater Temp °F
April66-7044-4858
May74-7850-5460
June83-8756-6066

Packing for Your Trip


We want you to be prepared and comfortable for your trip. Below you’ll find some general tips for how to dress and what to pack and a comprehensive packing checklist. The need for warm weather or cold weather items should be based on a reliable weather forecast leading up to your trip.

Clothing

During the day—Start with a swimsuit and/or swim trunks and a synthetic or Merino wool shirt as a base layer. Additional layers for sun protection or insulation can be added and subtracted depending on the weather, temperature, and how wet you’re getting in the rapids.

In camp—When the weather is warm, lightweight cotton pants/skirt or shorts and a shirt make great camp wear. Anytime the forecast calls for cool evenings and cold nights, a dry set of long underwear is the perfect base layer under long pants and a fleece sweater.

Footwear

During the day—The best choice is an amphibious shoe that drains water, protects your toes, and won’t come off in swirling currents. A retired pair of athletic shoes can work well, too. Sport sandals with a heel strap are a good option. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.

In camp—We recommend wearing shoes in camp due to the risk of kicking a rock buried in the sand or stepping on a sharp stick. It’s nice to put on dry socks and shoes after a day on the water. Flip flops or slip-on sandals are OK for wearing in camp only.

If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!

Headwear

During the day—Ball caps are also useful since they fit under helmets, which are required attire when paddling our whitewater rivers.

In camp—When the weather is cool or cold, you’ll want a non-cotton beanie-style hat to wear in camp. They are the perfect remedy for bed-head as you rise from your sleeping bag to secure your morning cup of coffee or tea, or for retaining warmth in the evening hours after the sun sets.

To Avoid Being Cold

You will be provided with a wetsuit and splash top, but you still need to be prepared for inclement weather. Bring a good fleece or wool top and bottom, along with a warm hat and gloves. You’ll want to double up on your base layers so that you’ll have a set to wear in the boat and a set of warm, dry clothes for camp.

Rain Gear

Rain gear protects you from rain, wind, and the splash of the rapids. It is one of the essential items that all guests should have no matter what time of year they are traveling. Look for a jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, not just water resistant. A hooded jacket is recommended as well as good secure closures around your head, neck, wrists, and ankles. Do not bring a rain poncho as it cannot be worn under your PFD.

Sun Protection

Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously! In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt is the best method for preventing sunburn on your upper body. Lightweight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses are also a must.

Bugs & Mosquitoes

Bugs and mosquitoes vary depending on location and time of year. It’s a good idea to come prepared with insect repellent. Long-sleeved shirts and pants may be desirable at times. Often yellow jackets and wasps can be a nuisance. We recommend a eucalyptus and lemongrass repellent. If you are allergic, please bring two epi-pens.

MENSTRUAL CYCLE

Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. We recommend you bring some sandwich-size zip-close bags. These bags can store products during the day while you are on the river. Used pads or tampons can be disposed of in the trash at lunch or at camp. We provide some menstrual products on most trips for emergencies.

Sleeping Gear

You can either bring your own sleeping bag, pad, and ground tarp, or you can use our sleep kit. If you are purchasing your own bag for the trip, keep in mind that a synthetic-fill bag rated to 20°F (the normal range for an all-around, “three-season” bag) is recommended for early and late season trips.

Packing List

Equipment and Personal Items

☐ Sleeping bag, pad, sheet liner, small pillow, and pillowcase. Sleep kits including these items may be rented for $40. (For schools in March-May, we suggest a synthetic-fill bag rated to 20°).
☐ One 1-liter water bottle: durable and reusable
☐ Headlamp or flashlight (consider bringing extra batteries)
☐ Polarized sunglasses with securing strap (consider bringing a spare)
☐ Quick-drying towel
☐ Toiletries, including soap and shampoo (preferably biodegradable)
☐ Sunscreen and lip protection: waterproof & SPF 30 or higher (aerosol sprays not recommended)
☐ Moisturizing lotion or cream
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Personal first-aid kit (Band-aids, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen, moleskin, eye drops, etc.)
☐ Spare pair of glasses and/or contacts
☐ Cash for gratuities

Footwear

☐ River shoes or sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco®).
☐ Athletic Shoes or light hikers: for in camp
☐ Socks: synthetic or wool for the river; cotton is ok for camp

Clothing

☐ Long-sleeved shirts: lightweight and light color for sun protection (old dress shirts work well)
☐ Long pants: lightweight and light color for sun protection
☐ Ball cap or visor with securing strap – flexible enough to wear underneath your helmet
☐ Rain jacket & pants: waterproof (not water resistant). A hooded jacket with secure closures is recommended.
☐ Swimwear: tankinis and board shorts are a great option
☐ Underwear
☐ Shorts: 1-2 pair
☐ T-shirts/tops: 1-2
☐ Synthetic or merino wool long underwear: 2 sets top & bottom (light-, mid-, or expedition-weight depending on the time of year, weather, location)
☐ Jacket: fleece or down/synthetic fill puffy (depending on the time of year, weather, and location)
☐ Camp clothes: comfortable and appropriate for the season. Cotton is recommended for hot weather trips. Some may prefer an athletic skirt or dress.

Additional Essentials

☐ Wetsuit booties and/or neoprene synthetic or wool socks (for wearing inside your river shoes)
☐ Fleece top & bottom
☐ Warm hat and gloves: synthetic or wool
☐ Extra set of synthetic or Merino wool long underwear top & bottom
☐ Splash jacket (provided) and rain/splash pants

Optional Items

☐ Camera and accessories
☐ Sarong: useful for sun protection, evaporative cooling, changing clothes, etc.
☐ Plastic bags: for separating dirty clothes from clean
☐ Earplugs
☐ Neoprene paddling gloves
☐ Sketchbook, notebook and pen, paperback book
☐ Bandana
☐ Dry Suit (can be rented from local outfitter)
Stand-up urination device

Extra Gear

We recommend that you leave your valuables at home. If you have extra luggage, it should be locked in your car, along with other personal items like wallets, purses, and cell phones.

  • Visit our Trip Resources page for more info on the use of drones, electronics, cannabis, CPAP Machines, firearms, and more.
  • Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore and 15% of your purchase helps provide under-resourced youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
  • Shop for the latest in top-quality clothing, footwear & outdoor gear at REI.

Reminders


GRATUITIES

Tipping is appreciated by our staff. If you are wondering how much to tip, you may consider that we operate in a service industry with a host of behind-the-scenes contributors in addition to the guides on your trip. In general, we suggest a gratuity based on 10 – 15% of the trip cost. It is customary on OARS trips for gratuities to be given to the Trip Leader, in the form of cash or a personal check, who will then distribute appropriately amongst all the guides and support staff.

SOMETHING VOLUNTARY

In reviewing your statement, you’ll notice a $1/person/day donation to the American River Conservancy, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the Forks of the American River. One hundred percent of your tax-deductible donation goes toward conserving the American Rivers watershed. This donation is voluntary and may be removed from your invoice if you choose not to participate.


Terms & Conditions


Reservations and Payments

A $400/person deposit is required at the time of booking with final payment due 60 days before departure. Accounts on which final payment has not been received 50 days before the departure date will be canceled without exception.

Payments can be made by check, money order, eCheck, wire transfer, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. 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. 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.

Cancellations and Refunds

Canceling your trip after your deposit is 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. 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. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

DATE OF CANCELLATIONCANCELLATION FEE
180 or more days before your trip$50/person
179 – 90 days before your trip$100/person
89 – 60 days before your trip$200/person, balance available as a limited-time trip credit valid through the end of the following season
59 days or less before your tripFull Fare

Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation email for details.

Canceled Trips

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 45 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.

Transfers

If you need to move your reservation to a different trip during the same season, or to a credit account for the following year, there is a $25/person fee up until 90 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. Transfer requests made 89 days or less before departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.

Medical

Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying an OARS trip. People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.

Travel Protection

Because there are costs that you will incur if you cancel the spaces on this trip that we’re now holding for you, or in the event you need to be evacuated during the trip due to an unforeseen illness or injury, we strongly encourage our guests to purchase an optional travel protection plan. A travel protection plan may help reimburse the cost of your pre-paid, non-refundable payments in the event you are prevented from taking your trip for a covered reason. Trip participants must understand that in the event of an illness or injury on a wilderness trip, evacuation can be prolonged, difficult, and expensive. Learn more about the plan we recommend.

Please note: To be eligible for coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, you must purchase the plan within 21 days of your initial trip payment and you must be medically fit to travel at the time you pay for the plan.

Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage can be purchased as stand-alone coverage, independent of a comprehensive travel protection plan. You can get a quote for this type of policy by entering a Trip Cost amount of $0 when getting a quote.

Please note: By entering a Trip Cost amount of $0, the plan will not include Trip Cancellation coverage and you may not be eligible for Emergency Medical Expense benefits relating to any pre-existing conditions.

Liability Release / Assumption of Risk

Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release / assumption of risk form before the trip, confirming awareness that there are inherent risks associated with the trip. Due to the nature of the activities, a condition of your participation is that you will sign this form and return it to our office before the trip begins. Anyone who refuses to sign the form will not be allowed to participate, and consistent with OARS cancellation policy, there will be no refund of the trip fees at that time.

Responsibility – An Important Notice

O.A.R.S. West, Inc. and cooperating agencies act only in the capacity of agent for the participants in all matters relating to transportation and/or all other related travel services and assume no responsibility however caused for injury, loss, or damage to person or property in connection with any service, including but not limited to that resulting directly or indirectly from acts of God, detention, annoyance, delays and expenses arising from quarantine, pandemics, strikes, theft, pilferage, force majeure, failure of any means of conveyance to arrive or depart as scheduled, civil disturbances, government restrictions or regulations, and discrepancies or change in transit over which it has no control. Reasonable changes in the itinerary may be made where deemed advisable for the comfort and wellbeing of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 6 guests), and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts and kayaks do capsize. You could be swept overboard. Your guide will make every attempt to assist, but you must be strong and agile enough to “self-help” and “float-it-out” without further endangering yourself or others. We reserve the right not to accept guests weighing more than 260 pounds or with a waist/chest size exceeding 56 inches. We may decide, at any time, to exclude any person or group for any reason we feel is related to the safety of our trips. We are experienced in accommodating people with various disabilities. Please give us an opportunity to make you feel welcome. We need to discuss any special requirements ahead of time.

OARS trips occur in areas where unpredictable environmental conditions are to be expected. To moderate dangerous situations for our guests and guides, all travelers must obey the rules and regulations as determined by the managing agencies and the Trip Leader and demonstrate reasonable consideration for other guests and OARS employees. We reserve the right to remove any guest from a trip if, in our opinion, that guest’s actions or behaviors pose a threat to the safety of her/himself or others, or if those actions or behaviors compromise the enjoyment of the trip for others. Should a guest be asked to leave a trip, there will be no refund for the unused portion, nor will OARS be responsible for additional expenses incurred by the guest for accommodations, return transport, change fees, etc. Prices subject to change without notice. Upon advancement of deposit, the depositor agrees to be bound by the above-recited terms and conditions. OARS is an equal opportunity provider.

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