|MEETING PLACE:||OARS American River Outpost, 7330 River Park Drive, Lotus, CA 95651|
|MEETING TIME:||7:00 AM|
|RETURN TIME:||Approximately 2:00 PM on the 2nd day, depending on water levels|
|RIVER RATING:||Class III-IV (suitable for intermediate to advanced rafters)|
|RIVER MILES:||24 river miles with 18 named rapids|
|PUT-IN:||Oxbow Reservoir (day 1) / Chili Bar (day 2)|
|TAKE-OUT:||Driver’s Flat Rd (day 1) / American River Outpost (day 2)|
|TRIP LENGTH:||2 Days / 1 Night|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 14 (16 at high water)|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Paddle raft; paddle raft with oar assist|
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:
Paddle Raft, Paddle Raft with Oar Assist
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.
The water on both the Middle Fork and the South Fork of the American River is released during summer months from hydroelectric facilities located upstream. Such water releases are not subject to the control of El Dorado County or commercial rafting companies.
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 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:
We meet near our camp store at the OARS American River Outpost at 7:00 AM. Roads around here are winding, so please be sure to allow for plenty of travel time; we cannot wait for late arrivals. Once everyone has arrived, we will take an hour shuttle ride to our put-in at Oxbow. Here, the guides will unload and rig the boats, 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. (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 Cathedral 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 the side of the river 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. 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 great whitewater and rapids. As we reach our take-out, an OARS shuttle will be waiting to return us to the OARS American River Outpost. We will return to camp around 4:00 – 5:00 PM.
Back at the OARS American River Outpost, you are welcome to take a swim or a hot shower, join a game of horseshoes, or sit back and relax with a beverage as your guides prepare dinner. Your dinner could be anything from barbecued steak and chicken to fajitas. Tasty desserts are always a big hit.
The next morning, following a hot breakfast and a 25-minute OARS shuttle ride, you will arrive at Chili Bar put-in for your second day of splashy big-water fun on the South Fork. Since you will already have your paddle strokes practiced up from the Middle Fork, we will push off and head downriver to the infamous rapid named Meatgrinder!
Beautiful river scenes stretch out around us with redtail hawks soaring overhead and the occasional river otter swimming near shore. Exciting rapids like Racehorse Bend, Maya, and Triple Threat await us on this enjoyable run! After a short section of class I-II whitewater, we find ourselves at the notorious “Troublemaker” rapid. This solid, class III rapid packs an exhilarating ride.
After floating by the historic town of Coloma and the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, where gold was originally discovered in 1848, your trip begins to wind down—but not without a few more stories from your personable and knowledgeable guide. Enjoy another picnic lunch, relax and go for a dip one last time before arriving back at our campground around 2:00 PM. Stay with us as long as you’d like before saying goodbye to your guides and our beautiful spot along the South Fork of the American River.
- Skilled, professional guide service
- 1 night catered camping, with hot showers and flush toilets
- Meals from lunch on day-one through lunch on day-two, with limited beer and wine at dinner
- 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 to our campground
What’s Not Included?
- Transportation to and from our meeting location at our American River Outpost
- River Access Fees
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Items of a personal nature (see suggested packing list below)
- Wetsuit booties or shoes of any kind
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
- Tents and sleep kits (May be rented from OARS. See rental options below.)
Meeting Place & Time
We will meet you near our camp store at 7:00 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. 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 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: 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.
- 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.
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 for weather in Coloma, CA: https://www.wunderground.com/weather/us/ca/coloma
Average Air and Water Temperatures for the Middle Fork American
|Air (Day) °F||Air (Night) °F||Water Temp. °F|
Average Air and Water Temperatures for the South Fork American
|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.
What To Bring
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.
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, and then adding layers of synthetic long underwear and fleece as needed.
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.
☐ Face covering(s) for use while riding in shuttle vehicles and entering enclosed spaces
☐ Hand sanitizer
☐ Sleeping bag, pad, ground tarp and tent (these items may be rented from OARS)
☐ Headlamp or flashlight
☐ Insect repellent
☐ Sunscreen & lip protection: waterproof and SPF 30 or higher
☐ Water bottle
☐ Toiletries, towel and washcloth
☐ Shade hat/visor, flexible enough to fit under 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 a 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, along with warm socks
☐ Synthetic long underwear for spring and fall departures
☐ Warm camp clothes for the evening, with a sweater or jacket
☐ Bags to separate wet and dirty clothing; stuff sacks, trash bags, and Ziploc baggies are great options
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 (early/late-season) wetsuits 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 that we will need to consider in planning your trip.
- No dogs are allowed at the OARS American River Outpost.
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. Disposable waterproof and panorama cameras are also a fun option.
There are several professional companies taking photos of each raft at some of the South and Middle Fork’s larger rapids, which provide great action shots. These companies are not affiliated with OARS and you will need to contact them separately to purchase these pictures. Hotshot Imaging is conveniently based in Lotus right next door to our campground; visit them after your river trip at their storefront on Hwy 49 to purchase photos or view and order them online at www.oars.com/photos.
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.
A $60/person deposit is required at the time of reservation. Final payment is due in our office 30 days prior to your trip. Please let us know if you would like us to automatically charge your credit card on file when payment is due.
We advise 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.
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.