|MEETING PLACE:||Behind Raley’s Supermarket, 13384 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA 95603|
|GPS COORDINATES:||38.924278, -121.053393 (Intermittent GPS/cellular service in area)|
|MEETING TIME:||Varies due to launch times assigned to us by CA State Parks (see below)|
|RETURN TIME:||Trip lasts approximately 5 hours, depending on water levels|
|RIVER RATING:||Class IV+ (suitable for intermediate to advanced rafters)|
|RIVER MILES:||10 river miles with 8 named rapids|
|PUT-IN:||Bridge on Colfax-Iowa Hill Road|
|TAKE-OUT:||Ponderosa Way Bridge|
|TRIP LENGTH:||1 Day|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 14 (16 at high water)|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Paddle raft; paddle raft with oar assist|
The North Fork is the most challenging fork of the American River—rapid after Class IV rapid delivers a 5-mile run packed with nearly non-stop, white-knuckling whitewater, followed by a stretch of more gentle Class II-III rapids. Intricate boulder gardens, rushing falls and staircase drops promise intense paddling and plenty of adrenaline-inspiring thrills. The North Fork is a wild, untamed Sierra Nevada beauty that is well worth enjoying.
The CA State Parks & Recreation strictly regulates our run, assigning weekend launches at 20-minute intervals, from 8:00 AM until 2:00 PM. This means the trip start and end times will vary, though each trip covers the same amount of river miles. When you book your North Fork American trip, we will inform you of your exact meeting time. We strongly recommend staying overnight in a motel near Auburn. Please note that lunch may be served prior to running the river, depending on your launch time.
Paddle Raft with Oar Assist—During periods of high water and mid-season one-day trips, we will only offer paddle rafts with an oar assist. The most agile of any boat in the OARS fleet, your guide powers the raft with two hefty oars on a rear-mounted frame, while the crew wields single blade paddles up front for added horse-power. Helmets required. (Four to six paddlers)
Paddle Raft—In a paddle raft, 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. First-time paddlers on the Tuolumne should be aggressive and adventurous. Helmets required. (Four to six paddlers)
Water levels sufficient for rafting on the North Fork of the American River during the spring and early-summer months are relatively short-lived each season. It is important for our guests to understand that the water flow on the North Fork fluctuates greatly. The river’s free-flowing waters—dependent solely on snowmelt, without dams or reservoirs in the way—keep its season short and sweet! North Fork river trips run from April to as late as mid-June, depending on the preceding winter.
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:
Meet at the designated time behind the Raley’s Supermarket. Please be prompt; our designated launch time requires that we arrive at the put-in within a specific window. Once everyone has arrived, we will take a 40-minute shuttle ride to our put-in at the Colfax-Iowa Hill Bridge, where our boats and the rest of our OARS crew await. Our guides will present a thorough orientation and safety talk then fit you with your safety gear. Then we’re off!
Less than a half-mile in, the much-anticipated stretch of Class IV whitewater begins as we enter Chamberlain Falls Gorge. Slaughter’s Sluice is a lengthy series of boulder-choked rapids that leads to one of the river’s most formidable challenges: the crashing, 8-foot drop known as Chamberlain Falls. Zig-Zag, Achilles Heel, and Bogus Thunder are among the continuous steep drops and boulder slaloms we negotiate. After several miles of continuous whitewater, we near the end of the Class IV section—but not before facing Staircase, the river’s most infamous rapid and our rite of passage as conquerors of the North Fork of the American.
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 perhaps a tasty taco salad for roll-your-own burritos. Lunch is always accompanied by fruit, cookies, cold water and lemonade.
Back on the water, we find ourselves floating through an absolutely breathtaking exhibit of the Sierra Nevada’s striking scenery. 2000-foot canyon walls tower around us, creating an intimate gorge of polished granite, clear water, spring-green grasses, deep woods and brightly-colored wildflowers.
As we reach our take-out point at Ponderosa Way, our river trip draws to a close. An OARS shuttle will be waiting to give us a 30-minute ride back to Auburn and our vehicles.
- Skilled, professional guide service
- Delicious riverside, picnic lunch
- High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddles, helmets and personal flotation devices (PFDs)
- Wetsuits and splash jackets
- 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)
- Wetsuit booties or shoes of any kind
- Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
Meeting Place & Time
We will meet you in the parking lot behind the Raley’s Supermarket, 13384 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA 95603, according to the time our launch occurs for that given day. (We will establish that time for you when you reserve your trip, and will include it in your confirmation paperwork.) Please look for our OARS vans and guides.
- From Sacramento, take Interstate 80 East towards Reno. About 2 miles east of Auburn, take the Auburn Ravine/Foresthill Road exit (#121). Turn right onto Forest Hill Road, and almost immediately left onto Lincoln Way. Raley’s is on the right-hand side after you turn onto Lincoln Way (northeast corner of Lincoln and Forest Hill). Continue on into the rear of the parking area, behind Raley’s, where you will see an OARS representative. Please be prompt, have all your gear ready, and be dressed for the river!
- From Reno, head west toward Sacramento, and look for Exit #121 off of Interstate 80. Take a left onto Auburn Ravine/Foresthill Rd and cross over the freeway. Almost immediately, turn left onto Lincoln Way, and follow the directions above to find us behind Raley’s Supermarket.
Mileage and Driving Times
|From San Francisco||120 miles (2 ¼+ hours)|
|From Sacramento||36 miles (40 minutes)|
|From Los Angeles||420 miles (6 hours)|
|From South Lake Tahoe||62 miles (2 hours)|
|From Reno||130 miles (1¾ 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
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, as 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 for weather in Auburn, CA: www.weather.com or http://www.accuweather.com.
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
- 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 clothing 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 is the best method for preventing sunburn on your upper body. Light-weight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs.
☐ 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 and splash jackets (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’ll 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 North Fork’s famous Chamberlain Falls, which makes for a very dramatic photo souvenir! These companies are not affiliated with OARS, and you will need to contact them separately to purchase your pictures. Hotshot 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 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.
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.
http://www.oars.com/OARStoreWatch 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 O.A.R.S. 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.