|MEETING TIME:||7:30 AM|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 4:00 – 5:00 PM on the 2nd day|
|RIVER RATING:||Class IV (suitable for intermediate to advanced rafters)|
|RIVER MILES:||16 river miles with 9 recognizable rapids|
|TAKE-OUT:||Driver’s Flat Rd|
|TRIP LENGTH:||2 Days|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 14 (16 at high water)|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Paddle raft|
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. The following boats may be a part of your experience:
Learn more about the boats on your trip at https://www.oars.com/experience/boats/
WE NEED TO DIRECT YOUR ATTENTION TO AN IMPORTANT ASPECT OF OUR MIDDLE FORK AMERICAN RIVER TRIPS:
IN THE INTEREST OF SAFETY FOR BOTH GUIDES AND GUESTS, WE CAN ONLY TAKE SIX (6) GUESTS IN EACH RAFT. We try very hard to not split groups, but sometimes, based on how different group sizes match up, it is simply unavoidable. We thank you in advance for your understanding.
You will be accompanied down the river by oar rafts used exclusively for carrying the kitchen and overnight gear.
The water on the Middle Fork of the American River is released during the summer months from hydroelectric facilities located upstream. Such water releases are not subject to the control of El Dorado County or commercial rafting companies. It is important for our guests to understand that the water flow on the American is directly related to demand for hydropower.
WHITEWATER ORIENTATION VIDEO
To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. Watch at www.oars.com/experience/safety/ or call 800-346-6277 to request a free DVD. Please don’t leave home without watching.
We pride ourselves in running a relaxed and always-flexible schedule. Every 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:
Meet next to our camp store at 7:30 AM at the OARS American River Outpost. Once all guests are accounted for and the overnight dry bags are packed, we will take a one hour and fifteen minute shuttle ride to our put-in at Oxbow where our boats and the rest of the OARS crew await.
Once we arrive at the put-in, an OARS guide will present a thorough orientation and safety talk and fit you with your safety gear while the rest of our team loads your overnight gear onto our oar rafts. Then, we’re off down the river!
Not a minute from our launch point, we encounter our first blast of whitewater. Aptly named Good Morning, this big-wave Class III rapid will get our blood flowing and hearts pumping, eliminating any remaining early-morning sleepiness. The next mile and a half delivers several Class II-III rapids in quick succession, giving us a chance to sharpen our paddling skills for the mother rapid of the Middle Fork: Tunnel Chute!
We hear the ominous roar as we approach Last Chance, a thrilling Class III drop, that positions us for entry into Tunnel Chute–a long, growling stretch of whitewater that paws us back and forth through its frothing channel, down through the famous underground stretch of river. (Some guests and groups of guests may be asked by the guides to walk around Tunnel Chute.) One hundred yards later, we float back into the sunlight, our hearts still pounding with laughter and cheers.
For the next few miles, we happily negotiate more adrenaline-pumping Class II-IV rapids with highlights like Cathedral and Kanaka Falls.
Following our plummet through Kanaka, the river changes considerably, meandering over several miles of calm water. We’re now in the heart of Auburn State Recreation Area in the American River Canyon, where steep walls covered in pine forests plunge down into the boulder-strewn river. Springtime rafting offers green hills blanketed with colorful wildflowers; later in the season, the hills turn a golden yellow that contrasts sharply with the green woods that cover them.
Lunchtime comes and we pull off the water for a delicious picnic. Knowing that a morning of hard paddling inspires a very hearty appetite, we make sure our lunches are always abundant and satisfying. Lounge in the shade of an oak tree with a deli sandwich piled high with fresh cold cuts, veggies and cheese; enjoy a cold drink, fresh fruit, and cookies. After feasting and relaxing on the beach, our downriver journey towards camp resumes. On your way downstream, you will be offered the option to participate in a side hike at Dardanelles Creek. This is a manageable hike for most, up a slot canyon creek, that dead ends at a “shower room” type waterfall.
At the end of the afternoon, we’ll pull over for camp. Your guides will set up the kitchen and begin preparing a delicious dinner. Here at camp, there will be time to set up your individual site, get to know each other, fish, swim, play, or sample the delectable hors d’oeuvres your guides have prepared. Dessert, stargazing, and perhaps a tall tale or two follow the evening meal.
The next morning, we’ll rise amidst the wonderful smells of coffee and breakfast. We’ll have time to repack our gear and get ready for another exciting day on the river.
Back in our boats, we’ll finish paddling through the calm-water section and down to the gear/luggage takeout. Here the overnight camp gear and dry bags will be offloaded before we paddle through another fun stretch of steep and continuous whitewater action.
Before lunch, you will be given the option to participate in another side hike up Canyon Creek. This hike is a bit longer and more adventurous than the first day’s hike and includes beautiful scenery and even pools for swimming. After another delicious lunch, the afternoon whitewater begins.
An intense Class IV drop, Chunder, provides thrills and chills before we get out of the boats and scramble around the roaring, 30-foot waterfall, Ruck-A-Chucky Falls. As we negotiate the rugged path around the side of the pounding falls, you can look back up to watch your guides maneuver the rafts down this spectacular stretch of whitewater. Back on the river, we finish our day with another mile and a half of exhilarating whitewater rapids with names like Parallel Parking, Texas Chainsaw Mama and Final Exam.
As we reach the take-out, an OARS shuttle will be waiting to return us to the OARS American River Outpost. Our shuttle driver will have snacks, cold sodas, and sparkling water ready and awaiting our arrival. Once the boats are loaded back on the vans, we will make the 45 min drive back to the American River Outpost where your cars await. We generally arrive back at our camp around 4:00-5:00 PM. Feel free to spend the night with us again before heading back home.
- Skilled, professional guide service
- 1 night catered camping
- All meals from lunch on day one through lunch on the last day
- One waterproof bag to hold your gear for the trip (13” diameter x 25” tall; ; 3318 cu in; 54.4 L —approximate sealed size). Please note: If you rent a sleep kit from us, it will come already packed into the waterproof bag you are issued and will take up about 1/3 of the space in the bag. Your remaining personal gear must fit into this bag with the sleep kit.
- One small, shared waterproof bag per raft for a camera and other small items you’ll want during the day (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter; 1081 cu in; 17.7 L)
- High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddle, helmet, personal flotation device, wetsuits and splash tops (Wetsuits and splash tops provided on early and late season trips, cold weather trips, and by advance request.)
- Transfers from the meeting place to the river and back
What’s Not Included?
- Transportation to the meeting place and back
- River Access Fees
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Items of a personal nature (see suggested packing list below)
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
- Alcoholic beverages (You are welcome to bring your own in non-glass containers.)
- Sleep kits (which include a clean sleeping bag, inflatable sleeping pad, sheet, pillow, and pillow case), available to rent for $25 each
- Tents (double-occupancy), available to rent for $30 each
Rental Options at our American River Outpost:
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: Can be rented for $25 per person. Sleep kits consist of a sleeping bag, a deluxe 3-inch thick, air-filled sleeping pad, sheet, pillow and pillowcase.
- Sleeping Pad Only: The deluxe 3-inch thick air-filled pad only may be rented for $15
- 2-Person Tent: We provide 2 person tents. It is assumed you will share this tent with another person. If you are traveling alone, or your travel group contains an odd number of people, you will still be provided a tent and will not have to share a tent with anyone who is not a member of your group.
TRIP PREPARATION CHECKLIST
☐ Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: For complete details and to purchase the plan we highly recommend, visit: https://www.oars.com/tpp
☐ Trip Forms (online): Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms within two weeks of making a booking. Refer to your confirmation e-mail 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 your school within 60 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.
☐ Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. Watch at https://www.oars.com/experience/safety/ or call 800-346-6277 to request a free DVD. Please don’t leave home without watching.
☐ 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. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip.
Meeting Place & Time
We’ll meet you near our camp store at 7:30 AM at the OARS American River Outpost, located at 7330 River Park Drive, behind Hotshot Imaging’s store in Lotus. Click here for a Google Map.
Getting to the OARS American River Outpost
- From Sacramento on U.S. Hwy 50: Follow Hwy 50 east toward Placerville and South Lake Tahoe. Take the Ponderosa Road exit (Exit #37), turn left onto Ponderosa/S. Shingle Road and cross over the freeway. At the second stop light, take the right turn on N. Shingle Road toward Coloma/Lotus.After about 4.5 miles N. Shingle Road turns into Lotus Road—continue going straight for about 6 more miles. As you approach Lotus, pass through the town’s first stop sign and continue to the 3-way stop sign intersection with Hwy 49. Turn left onto Hwy 49 (north) and cross the bridge over the South Fork of the American. Immediately after crossing the river, you will see the “River Park” shopping center on the left, with signs for Hotshot Imaging. Please use the center’s second entrance, where a left-turn lane is provided at River Park Drive. Look to the back of the center, where you will see the entrance to our American River Outpost.
- From South Lake Tahoe: Take Hwy 50 west to Placerville. Turn right on Hwy 49 (north) and follow the directions from Placerville listed below.
- From Placerville: Proceed north on winding Hwy 49 for about 9.5 miles (about 20—25 minutes) through the town of Coloma. Just past Coloma and the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, cross the bridge over the South Fork of the American. Right after crossing the river, you will see the “River Park” shopping center on the left, with signs for Hotshot Imaging. Please use the center’s second entrance, where a left-turn lane is provided at River Park Drive. Look to the back of the center, where you will see the entrance to our campground.
- From Reno/North Lake Tahoe: Take Interstate 80 west to Auburn. Take Hwy 49 south from Auburn for about 17 miles (about 30 minutes), arriving in the Coloma/Lotus area. After passing through Lotus’ 3-way stop sign (intersection with Marshall Grade Rd), continue past the gas station and look for us behind the “River Park” shopping center on the right. Before Hotshot Imaging’s building, turn right onto River Park Drive and look for the entrance to our campground in the back of the retail center.
Mileage and Driving Times
|From San Francisco||140 miles (3 hours)|
|From San Jose||175 miles (3½ hours)|
|From Sacramento||50 miles (1 hour)|
|From South Lake Tahoe||62 miles (2 hours)|
|From Reno||130 miles (2½ hours)|
|From Los Angeles||420 miles (6½ hours)|
If you’re arriving by car, parking is available at the OARS American River Outpost during your trip.
OARS cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage to vehicles or their contents.
- The closest major airport is in Sacramento (SMF), which is served by most major airlines and car rental companies. Oakland (OAK), San Francisco (SFO) and Reno (RNO) are within a 3-hour drive.
By Shuttle from the Sacramento Airport
Pre- and Post-Trip Accommodations
- One night of FREE camping before or after your trip is available at the OARS American River Outpost in Lotus for everyone who goes rafting with us; additional nights of camping and all nights of camping for non-rafters 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.
Rental Options at our American River Outpost:
- Sleep Kit (sleeping bag with pad, pillow & sheet): $25 per person, per stay
- 2-Person Tent: $30 per stay
- 4-Person Family Tent: $50 per stay
- 2-Person Pre-set Platform Tent (with 2 twin beds, sheets, pillows, and down comforters): $99 per tent, per night (not per-person)
Bed & Breakfast Inns
We recommend you make reservations well in advance in order to guarantee lodging.
The water on the Middle Fork of the American River is released during the summer months from hydroelectric facilities located upstream. Such water releases are not subject to the control of El Dorado County or commercial rafting companies. It is important for our guests to understand, the water flow on this river is directly related to demand for hydropower. The guides are “tuned-in” to the water release schedule and will adjust the logistics of each trip to maximize the whitewater excitement.
Paddle Raft—The sportiest of crafts we put on the water, everybody handles a paddle while the guide steers and gives directions from the back of the boat. Paddling together is essential to finding the right run, and teamwork begets success. A thrilling way to brave the rapids! Helmets required. (Four to six passengers.)
Camp Life on the Middle Fork of the American River
After each active day on the river, we pull ashore to camp for the night. Upon arrival, our first task is to unload the boats using a “bag-line” of crew and passengers to expedite the process. Individuals then collect their waterproof bags and locate an area on the beach to camp for the night. On the first night in camp, a crew member will give a demonstration on setting up a tent, which you’ll see is quick and easy. The guides will set up the kitchen and central dining/seating area with camp chairs. They will also locate a secluded area away from camp to set up the portable toilet, where privacy is assured.
As dinner is being prepared by the guides, hors d’oeuvres will be served and you will have an opportunity to relax, enjoy a drink if you wish, and reflect on the day with your fellow traveling companions.
In the morning, the first wake-up call will let you know that coffee, hot water for tea or cocoa, juice, fresh fruit and cold cereal are ready on the hors d’oeuvres table. You can fill your mug and grab a bite, then begin to pack up your personal belongings and sleep gear as the guides prepare breakfast. After breakfast is served, the entire camp will be broken down and packing will be completed. The gear will then be loaded onto the boats and we’ll head downstream to see what new adventures await us.
The meals we serve are hearty and delicious, complete with fresh ingredients and a variety of foods. A typical morning on a multi-day trip might start with French toast, bacon, fruit, orange juice, and coffee or tea. Lunch might be a delicious salad, a spread of cold cuts and cheeses with several types of bread, or pitas stuffed with veggies and hummus. There are always cookies and a cooling drink to top it off. At dinner, our guides’ cooking skills truly shine—sizzling steaks or salmon, chicken enchiladas, and delicious pasta dishes are all part of their repertoire. Dinner generally includes a salad, and desserts are frequent. Hors d’oeuvres are a pleasant surprise before many meals.
We need to know as soon as possible about any dietary restrictions we should consider in planning your trip. If you have food allergies or restrictions, we will do our best to accommodate your needs. However, there may be a supplemental menu fee ranging from $5-25 per person per day, to cover any increase in our costs.
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.
We cannot guarantee that cross-contamination from allergens will not occur during meal prep, and reserve the right to refuse service to anyone as it relates to safety, including the potential for a medical emergency caused by a severe food allergy. Also, due to the constraints of cooking for a large group in a wilderness setting, availability of ingredients or specialty items in remote locations, and limited packing space, we are unable to cater to dietary preferences (likes or dislikes).
Beverages / Alcohol
We provide plenty of water throughout the trip. While on the river, we provide one soda/sparkling water per person per day. Commercial outfitters on the Middle Fork of the American River may not supply any kind of alcohol for their guests. You are welcome to bring your own favorite beverages, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, in non-glass containers. If you choose to bring additional beverages, please let us know in advance. For your safety and the safety of others, alcoholic beverages are limited to camp.
OARS is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our guests and for our staff. We ask that smoking of any kind be done away and downwind from other trip participants.
We are obligated to adhere to the regulations established by the managing agency with jurisdiction over the area in which our trip operates. Use of marijuana on federal lands, whether it be medicinal or recreational, is illegal and therefore we ask that you refrain from bringing it with you on your OARS trip.
We carry sufficient drinking water along with us to provide for your needs throughout the trip. Water jugs are accessible in camp, at lunch time and before hikes for filling personal water bottles. In some cases, we will resupply water jugs with river water filtered through a purification system we provide. (No iodine is used in the purification process.)
Hiking / Side Creek Exploration
The opportunity to explore the area will depend on several variables, such as the amount of time spent in the boats (often 4-6 hours per day), the time it may take to break camp in the morning, other groups in the area, weather and more. We make every effort to provide guided excursions to nearby points of interest. The trip leader must consider the overall ability of the group when deciding what hikes to offer. In anticipation of doing some side exploration during your trip, remember to bring a water bottle and lightweight shoes that are comfortable for walking on uneven terrain. All hikes are optional, so you can choose to relax by the boats or in camp instead.
The Portable Toilet
While the idea of a river trip is appealing to most people, many are inhibited or reluctant because of modesty or uncertainty regarding personal hygiene. To minimize our environmental impact, we carry out all solid human waste. Each day at camp, we set up a portable toilet system in a discrete location away from the tent sites. It is essentially a toilet without plumbing, and it’s available each afternoon from the time you pull into camp until you leave camp the next day. Toilet paper and a convenient hand-washing station are provided.
We also carry a small container called the “day tripper,” which can be easily accessed during the day should the need arise. It is a personal disposable toilet, which includes an odor-proof transport bag, chemical solidifier and odor eliminator, toilet paper and an oversized hand wipe.
On popular stretches of wilderness rivers, a commonly heard refrain is “dilution is the solution to pollution.” We practice this approach by urinating in the river during the day. At camp, we provide pee buckets so that during the night, urination can occur in a secluded location and then be dumped into the river current, where it will be carried downstream.
Bathing with soap is discouraged in the Middle Fork American River and is definitively not allowed in any of the side streams that feed into the river. If you plan to bring soap, we recommend using a liquid biodegradable soap such as Campsuds or Dr. Bronner’s, which can be purchased in most stores that have a camping section. Disposable anti-bacterial towelettes (Coleman Swash Cloths, baby wipes, etc.) are good alternatives to submersion in the river and are especially convenient for spring and fall trips.
Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. You can use sandwich-sized Ziploc™ baggies during the day to store products while you are on the river or hiking. Used pads and tampons can be disposed of at lunch or in camp. We provide some menstrual products on most trips for emergencies.
You may want to bring a small waterproof bag to hold your camera and other items you might need during the day. While most rafting-specific bags are designed to be waterproof, you may also wish to place your camera in a durable, waterproof case for additional protection.
There are several professional companies taking photos of each raft at the Middle Fork’s famous Tunnel Chute. These companies are not affiliated with OARS; you will need to contact them separately to purchase your pictures. Hot Shot Imaging is one such company; visit www.hotshotimaging.com after your river trip. Their phone number is (530) 621-0400.
Electronics & Technology
The use of electronic devices, especially music players and flying drones, on your trip may represent an intrusion into the wilderness experience of your fellow guests. We ask that you be mindful of the impacts to others and respect the wilderness nature of the trip. Please bring headphones if you intend to listen to music during the trip and leave your drone at home.
Many of our guests travel with their smartphone, even though there is no cell service. On a trip like this, there is always the risk of water damage to smartphones and other electronic devices, even when they are stowed in a dry bag. If you intend to take your phone with you on the river, consider investing in a small, waterproof container just for your phone.
We are not able to provide a power source for powering or recharging devices. To keep cameras, phones, GPS, a CPAP and other devices working you may need spare batteries or portable power. Options include compact portable solar panels that can recharge devices directly, portable power banks that store power, or a combo unit that can be charged before the trip and recharged with a built-in solar panel. Solar panels must be designed to withstand outdoor elements and fit in your dry bag (roll-up or no larger than 12” x 12”). Keep in mind direct sunlight in a river canyon may be limited and even non-existent at camp (mornings and evenings).
Once you are on the river, there is limited communication with the “outside world.” Cell phone service is not available. Our guides carry a satellite communication device for emergency use. They can call out, but we cannot call them. Periodically the trip leader will check in with our office. If you have someone that needs to contact you about an emergency at home, they should call our office (800-346-6277). If possible, we will relay the message to you. Keep in mind, however, it could be several days or longer before the message actually reaches you. For your family at home you should define for them what you consider an emergency and provide them with instructions to call our office in the event one occurs during your vacation.
Wildfires & Smoke
Fire activity frequently impacts the air quality on our trips, and occasionally wildfires may be present in the immediate vicinity of where we’re traveling. Smoke impacts are more likely in the latter-half of the summer season, so those with asthma or other respiratory conditions may wish to steer clear of this time frame. In general, we will not cancel a trip on account of smoky conditions, except in cases of clear danger to life or property. Necessary changes to logistics and/or destination may occur with very short notice as fire conditions are constantly changing. We will do our best to keep you apprised of excessively smoky conditions that can be foreseen for your upcoming trip, but we also encourage you to stay informed about local fire activity: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/
Our standard cancellation terms & conditions apply should you choose to cancel due to environmental conditions resulting from a wildfire near to where our trip operates. Please review our Terms & Conditions section in this document, below. Furthermore, we recommend you consider investing in a comprehensive Travel Protection Plan that provides you the ability to “cancel for any reason” should you feel conditions from a nearby wildfire may result in you canceling your reservation.
Our guides do not carry firearms on our trips, and in most cases are prohibited from doing so by the managing agency. As a matter of preference, we ask all our guests to kindly leave your own firearms at home or in your vehicle.
If you require the use of a CPAP machine and intend to bring one with you, be sure to alert your OARS Adventure Consultant prior to your trip to let us know the dimensions of the machine, description of battery(s), and any protective case(s). Travel-sized CPAPs are readily available and often come with a battery kit. You must assess the power needs of your CPAP and bring the battery(s) needed to operate it for each night of your travels. We’re able to accommodate the transportation of your machine and accessories on the trip in metal dry boxes or soft dry bags; however, please understand that despite efforts to protect your equipment we can’t guarantee your machine and accessories won’t suffer water or impact damage and therefore we recommend additional protective case(s) for your machine & accessories.
Weather & Water Conditions
You may want to check one week prior to your trip for an up-to-date weather forecast. We recommend you check the following web site: https://www.wunderground.com/weather/us/ca/auburn for weather in Auburn, CA.
Average Air and Water Temperatures
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water Temp. °F|
River Runners Responsibility Code
- Read the pre-trip literature and arrive at the meeting place on time.
- Understand the risks: your safety is ultimately your responsibility.
- Treat your fellow guests and guides with respect and courtesy; harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
- Wear clothing and personal protective equipment suitable for the current conditions.
- Listen to and follow the guides’ instructions.
- Abide by the managing agency’s rules.
- No drugs or alcohol prior to, or during, your trip; alcohol is allowed in moderation in camp on overnight trips.
- Minimize your impact on the environment.
- 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.
- Your children are your responsibility!
Essential Eligibility Criteria for River Trips
Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our essential eligibility requirements.
Packing for your trip
Click on this link for helpful information about packing for your trip: https://www.oars.com/video/wear-bring-one-day-rafting-trip-oars/
The information below is subject to when your trip takes place. The need for warm weather or cold weather items should be based on a reliable weather forecast leading up to your trip.
During the day—Start with a swimsuit and/or swim trunks and synthetic or merino wool shirt as a base layer. Depending on the weather, temperature and how wet you’re getting in the rapids, additional layers, for sun protection or insulation, can be added or subtracted.
In camp – When the weather is warm, a pair of lightweight cotton pants or shorts and a shirt make great camp wear. Anytime the forecast calls for cool evenings and cold nights, a dry set of synthetic long underwear is the perfect base layer under long pants and a fleece sweater.
During the day— The best choice is an amphibious shoe that drains water, protects your toes and won’t come off in swirling current. A retired pair of athletic shoes can work well, too. Sport sandals with a heel strap are a good option, especially on rivers with sandy beaches. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.
In camp— We require wearing shoes in camp due to risk of kicking a rock buried in the sand, or stepping on a sharp stick. It’s also nice to put on dry socks and shoes after a day on the water. The athletic shoes or light hikers you bring for hiking can double as your camp shoes. Flip flops or slip-on sandals are OK for wearing in camp only.
Please note: If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!
During the day—Wide-brimmed hats are a good choice for sun protection. Ball camps 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 beanie-style hat to wear in camp. Warm hats 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.
Hot Weather Trips
During summer months, conditions on the river may be hot and sunny. These trips require less gear than spring or fall trips, but thoughtful packing is still required. Protection from the sun and heat will be critical to your enjoyment and health while on the river and during side hikes. To protect yourself from the sun’s rays, consider bringing long-sleeved shirts and pants.
A good way to keep cool is with a sarong or long-sleeved cotton shirts. Old collared dress shirts work well. They can be soaked in the water and worn in the raft or carried on a hike for later use. This method of evaporative cooling is very effective. Bandanas are another useful item that can be used in this manner.
Camp-wear should be made of cotton and be loose-fitting. A combination of shorts/skirt and a lightweight top is ideal for staying cool on hot afternoons.
To Avoid Being Cold
Synthetic or merino wool long underwear is a must-have on river trips. It can be worn under shorts, rain gear, T-shirts, etc., then stripped off when the chill of the morning has worn off. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet (which can happen easily), dries quickly, and it’s compact enough to be stuffed into your small waterproof bag or daypack after you take it off. It can be layered under your waterproof rain jacket and pants. In cooler weather, a rain jacket and pants can work better than a wetsuit. This is because the jacket and pants can be put on when it’s cold or when you’re going through whitewater then easily taken off when the sun comes out and it’s hot. On early-season and high-water trips, wetsuits will be provided for paddlers. After June 1st, wetsuits will be available by advance request only. Be aware that cotton items, once wet, do not insulate; only synthetic and wool materials will keep you warm during cool, wet weather.
Something warm for your top & bottom: You 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.
Raingear protects you from rain, wind, and the splash of the rapids. It is one of the essential items that all passengers should have no matter what time of year you are traveling. Look for a jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, not just water resistant. A hooded jacket is recommended. Good secure closures around your head, neck, wrists and ankles. Do not bring a rain poncho, as it cannot be worn under your PFD.
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. Light-weight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs.
A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are also a must. Rheos, the official sunglasses sponsor of OARS guides, offers polarized floatable nautical eyewear with 100% UV protection. Use promo code OARS15 to save 15% on any purchase from The Nautical Eyewear Collection.
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.
You can either bring your own sleeping bag, pad and ground tarp, or you can rent 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.
☐ Face covering(s) for use while riding in shuttle vehicles and entering enclosed spaces
☐ Hand sanitizer
☐ Sleeping bag, pad, ground tarp
☐ Small tent
☐ Headlamp or flashlight
☐ Small bags: stuff sacs, zip locks or similar for organizing items in your dry bag
☐ Large empty bag: laundry bag, pillow case or similar for putting clothes into after your trip
☐ Insect Repellent
☐ Sunscreen & lip protection: waterproof and SPF 30 or higher
☐ Water bottle
☐ Hand towel and washcloth
☐ Shade hat/visor, flexible enough to wear underneath your helmet
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized such as Rheos floatable eyewear www.rheosgear.com) with securing strap
☐ Swimwear; a two-piece is recommended for women for changing and using the restroom. Tankinis and board shorts are a great option.
☐ Shorts (long board shorts preferable for sun protection) and quick-drying top
☐ River/tennis shoes or river sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco®)“Aqua socks” strongly discouraged
☐ Dry footwear for camp
☐ Synthetic long underwear for spring trips
☐ Warm socks (neoprene or wool)
☐ Dry clothes and shoes to change into after your trip
Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore + 15% of your purchase helps provide under-resourced youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
- ALWAYS BE PREPARED FOR CHANGING WEATHER! Especially during the months of April, May and early June, California can experience extreme changes in weather.
- Wearing cotton items on a river trip is only appropriate when the weather is hot. Wet cotton will chill your body temperature.
- Provided wetsuits (on early/late season or cold-weather trips) do not include “wetsuit booties” – please bring your own, or wear wool socks with tennis shoes as a good alternative.
Packing Your Gear
On the morning of day one, each person will be given one waterproof bag (approximate sealed size: 25” tall x 13” diameter; 3318 cu in; 54.4 L) for your clothing, personal items, and sleeping gear. If you rent a sleep kit from us, it will come already packed into the waterproof bag you are issued and will take up about 1/3 of the space in the bag. Your remaining personal gear must fit into this bag with the sleep kit. This dry bag will essentially be your “checked luggage” and will only be accessible in camp. Tents are stowed separately.
We also provide one small, shared waterproof bag per raft for day use where you can keep items such as raingear, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, etc. (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter; 1081 cu in; 17.7 L). All bags are cylindrical in shape and pack from the top. Please pack light; river attire is very casual―comfort, convenience and boat space takes precedence over style.
We recommend that you leave your valuables at home or in your private vehicle and take on the river only what’s absolutely necessary.
Tipping is optional, but 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, a personal check, or by mobile app (a “peer to peer” payment method such as Venmo, PayPal or similar) who will then distribute appropriately amongst all the guides and support staff.
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.
Gear up in the OARStore where 15% of all purchases help fund outdoor adventures for under-resourced youth
Shop for the latest in top-quality clothing, footwear & outdoor gear
Recommended Reading List
Watch our “What to Wear and Bring” video
Additional information about the area
Terms & Conditions
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.
Cancelling your trip after your deposit has 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, less a 3% processing fee, for 48 hours 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 (see Travel Protection below).
|DATE OF CANCELLATION||CANCELLATION FEE|
|30 or more days prior to your trip||$15/person|
|29 to 7 days prior||Payment can be transferred to another trip within the same year (or to a credit account for the following year) for $30/person transfer fee. No refund.|
|6 days or less prior||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 e-mail 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 cancelled 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 cancelled 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 $30/person fee up until 30 days prior to departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. If we are 29-7 days prior to your trip departure, 50% of your trip cost can be credited to another trip, within the same year only. Transfer requests made 6 days or less prior to departure will be treated like a cancellation according to the schedule above.
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.
Because there are costs that you will incur if you cancel your reservation after the rescission period, or in the event you need to be evacuated during the trip due to illness or injury, we strongly encourage our guests to purchase an optional travel protection plan. A travel protection plan can reimburse you for non-refundable payments for cancellations due to covered medical reasons; and trip participants must understand that in the event of illness or injury on a wilderness trip, evacuation can be prolonged, difficult and expensive. For complete details and to purchase the plan we highly recommend, visit: https://www.oars.com/tpp
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. Coverage does not take effect until the plan premium has been paid.
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 here: www.oars.com/tpp
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 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, dories 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 passengers 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 at 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.