|MEETING PLACE:||Driver’s Flat Trailhead on Foresthill Road, 8 miles & 10 minutes east of North Auburn. The paved turn-out is on the left, 200 yards past Driver’s Flat Rd.|
|GPS COORDINATES:||Driver’s Flat Trailhead: 38.975291, -120.954151|
|MEETING TIME:||8:00 AM|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 5:00 PM|
|RIVER RATING:||Class IV, plus one Class V with optional portage (suitable for intermediate to advanced rafters)|
|RIVER MILES:||16 river miles with 9 recognizable rapids|
|TAKE-OUT:||Driver’s Flat Rd|
|TRIP LENGTH:||1 Day|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 14 (16 at high water)|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Paddle raft|
The Middle Fork of the American River rushes through a lovely, secluded canyon with a melee of class II-IV+ whitewater and one class V rapid with optional portage. Old West gold-mining lore and the beauty of the Sierra Nevada foothills combine to create a stunning backdrop for this incomparable river trip.
Today, the miners’ mark on the river is hardly noticed by the rafters who plunge through the exciting waves and drops of the Middle Fork—with one major exception: Tunnel Chute. This long, roiling rapid was created in an effort to divert the flow of the river in the search for gold. Miners blasted a tunnel through the side of a cliff, creating a new channel for the Middle Fork. In doing this, they inadvertently created one of the most unique whitewater features anywhere—a dramatic Class V rapid which abruptly flows underground!
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.)
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 https://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 at 8:00 AM at the Driver’s Flat Trailhead on Foresthill Road—just past Driver’s Flat Road—about 10 minutes from Auburn. Once everyone has arrived, we will take a 45-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, the guides will present a thorough orientation and safety talk and fit you with your safety gear. Then, we’re off down the river!
Our morning brings several Class II-III rapids in quick succession before we reach 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. (All guests will have the opportunity to look at this Class V rapid before choosing to run. Some guests and groups of guests may be asked by the guides to walk around Tunnel Chute.) After Tunnel Chute, we happily negotiate more adrenaline-pumping Class II-IV rapids, with highlights like First Flip and Kanaka Falls.
After plummeting through Kanaka, we leisurely meander down several miles of calm water. Now in the heart of Auburn State Recreation Area, we gaze at the steep walls covered in pine forests which plunge down into the boulder-strewn river. In spring, the green hillsides are adorned with colorful wildflowers; later in the season, the hills turn a golden yellow that contrasts sharply with the green woods.
Come lunchtime, we will pull over to a beach for a delicious picnic. Your guides will lay out an abundant spread of cold cuts, cheeses, veggies and breads or wraps. Lunch is always accompanied by fruit, cookies, cold water and lemonade.
Once we’ve finished lunch, we will return to the boats to finish the flat water section and prepare for another long stretch of continuous whitewater action and Ruck-A-Chucky Falls. This 35-foot waterfall is classified as un-runnable, which means we must get out of the boats and portage the rapid. We will walk down the side of the pounding falls while our 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 great whitewater and rapids. As we reach our take-out, an OARS shuttle will be waiting to return us to our vehicles at the top of Driver’s Flat Road. We usually have you returned to your vehicle by 5:00 PM.
- Skilled, professional guide service
- Delicious, riverside picnic lunch
- High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddle, helmet, personal flotation device and wetsuits (Wetsuits are only provided on early season—April to May—and cold weather trips)
- Transfers from the meeting place to the river and back
What’s Not Included?
- Transportation to the meeting place and back
- 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
- Wetsuit booties or shoes of any kind
Meeting Place & Time
We’ll meet at 8:00 AM at the Driver’s Flat Trailhead on Foresthill Road, between Auburn and Foresthill, CA. The actual turn-out where you park your car is on the left-hand side of Foresthill Road and about 200 yards beyond Driver’s Flat Road. There is no sign to mark the meeting spot, so please look for our OARS vehicles parked in the turn-out. Click here for a Google Map.
Getting to the Driver’s Flat Trailhead
- From Sacramento via I-80: Follow Interstate 80 East toward Reno. About 2 miles east of Auburn, take the Auburn Ravine/Foresthill Road exit (#121). Turn right, or east, onto Foresthill Road, continuing on for 8 miles. You’ll know you’re headed in the right direction when you cross over the impressive Foresthill Bridge.
- After 8 miles, you will see a sign that says Driver’s Flat Road—do not drive down this road. The paved turnout is immediately past the sign for Driver’s Flat Road, on the left-hand (or north) side of Foresthill Rd. An OARS representative will be waiting with an OARS van at 8:00 AM. Please be prompt, have your gear ready, and be dressed for the river. Lock up your valuables, give your car key to the Trip Leader and get ready to have a blast!
- From Reno/North Lake Tahoe: Take Interstate 80 West toward Sacramento. As you approach Auburn, exit at Auburn Ravine/Foresthill Road (exit #121). Cross over the freeway after turning onto Foresthill Road, and follow the above directions.
Mileage and Driving Times
|From San Francisco||130 miles (2½+ hours)|
|From San Jose||165 miles (3+ hours)|
|From Sacramento||44 miles (1 hour)|
|From Los Angeles||430 miles (6½ hours)|
|From South Lake Tahoe||91 miles (2¼ hours)|
|From Reno||105 miles (2 hours)|
These are approximate mileage and driving times and do not take into account any delays, so please allow yourself extra time. Additional maps of the area can be found at: www.maps.google.com If you arrive at the meeting place before our vans arrive, please hold off on paying the parking fee. We will have parking passes for you when we arrive.
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 $10 per person/night. Please ask an Adventure Consultant about the details of staying at our beautiful riverside camp, since advance reservations are required.
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): $85 per night on Sunday through Thursday; $100 per night on Friday and Saturday
We recommend you make reservations well in advance in order to guarantee lodging.
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 sites: www.weather.com or http://www.accuweather.com for weather in Auburn, CA.
Average Air and Water Temperatures
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water Temp. °F|
Our primary goal is for you to have an enjoyable experience. The nature of the trip is such that it involves some physical exertion and potential exposure to the elements, including cold water, heat, sun, wind and rain. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight or lack conditioning can endanger themselves, other guests and the guides. Please consult your doctor if you have medical or health conditions that could impact your ability to participate in this outdoor adventure. In general, trip participants must be able to:
- Wear a Type V Coast Guard approved personal floatation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches)
- Climb on and off the boats multiple times
- Paddle or hold on to the boat while navigating whitewater rapids
- Navigate uneven terrain (On the mandatory portage, you must climb/walk across uneven terrain down a steep, boulder-strewn trail.)
- Self-rescue by swimming to a boat or to shore in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
- Self-rescue by climbing into a boat with the help of another person in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid
What To Bring
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. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.
We recommend starting with bathing suit/swim trunks and a lightweight synthetic shirt. In cool weather, add layers of synthetic long underwear and warmer clothes as needed.
Protecting yourself from the sun should be taken very seriously. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm and sunglasses are a must. In many cases, a long-sleeve shirt and/or light-weight pants are the best method for preventing sunburn.
☐ Sunscreen & lip protection: waterproof and SPF 30 or higher
☐ Water bottle
☐ Shade hat/visor, flexible enough to wear underneath your helmet
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) with securing strap
☐ Swimsuit; a two-piece is recommended for women for changing and using the restroom
☐ 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
☐ 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 and receive FREE SHIPPING in the U.S. + 15% of your purchase helps provide disadvantaged 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-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.
Please let us know if you have any medical issues or dietary needs that we will need to consider in planning your trip.
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 wish to place your camera in a zip-loc™ plastic bag or waterproof casing for additional protection. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option.
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.
Each participant will need to complete the required trip forms online and submit them no later than 30 days prior to your trip, or immediately if booking within 30 days.
Final and full payment is due at the time of booking.
We recommend that you leave your valuables at home or in your private vehicle and take on the river only what’s absolutely necessary. We also recommend you leave dry shoes and clothing in your car to ensure a comfortable drive home.
If you feel your guides have provided a very special trip for you, you may leave a gratuity with the trip leader to be shared among the crew. This tip is entirely at your discretion, though we recommend a general tipping guideline of anything between 8% and 12% of trip cost. If you plan to tip, remember to bring a personal check or cash—ATMs are hard to find in the backcountry!
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.
If you enjoyed your trip, consider donating to the OARS Foundation. This organization is a not-for-profit 501 (c) 3 organization with the express goal of providing opportunities for young people to experience the magic of the outdoors. Visit www.oarsfoundation.org to learn more about how a tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
Watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video
Shop for the latest in top-quality gear for your trip
OARS practices Leave No Trace outdoor ethics
Additional information about the area
Terms & Conditions
Full payment is required at the time of reservation.
Cancellations and Refunds
If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible.
|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) 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)|
|Late arrivals or “no shows”||No refund or credit|
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.
We strongly recommend that you protect yourself, your belongings and your vacation through the purchase of a travel protection plan. They cover your non-refundable payments in most cases, should you have to cancel your trip due to illness or injury—yours or that of an extended family member—even at the last minute. If coverage is purchased at the time of your initial reservation, pre-existing medical conditions may be covered. No one wants an expensive helicopter to become necessary, but if you need to be evacuated or if an immediate family member dies and the local management agency is requested to notify you by helicopter, the helicopter expenses will be your responsibility. Evacuations can be prolonged, difficult and expensive. Personal belongings and cameras are carried entirely at the owner’s risk, and OARS accepts no responsibility for lost, damaged, delayed or stolen property. You can protect yourself through Travel Insurance Services or with alternative insurance. Call Travel Insurance Services at 800-937-1387 or visit their website at http://www.travelinsure.com/cobrand/select/oars
Everyone is required to sign a standard liability release form before the trip, acknowledging 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, 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 well-being of the participants, including cancellation due to water fluctuation, insufficient bookings (this trip requires a minimum of 8 guests), and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts and kayaks can 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. On advancement of deposit the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. Prices subject to change without notice.