|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|
ATTENTION: OARS has developed a COVID-19 General Mitigation Plan that seeks to minimize the chances that disease transmission will occur on our trips. A condition of participation is to read, understand and agree to follow the rules and guidelines and participate in all screening measures. Failure to comply with these conditions of participation will result in declination of service and/or removal from the trip.
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—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 should be aggressive and adventurous. Helmets required. (Four to six paddlers)
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 steers the raft with two hefty oars on a rear-mounted frame while the crew wields paddles up front to provide the necessary horsepower. 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. 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 wraps. 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. Click here for a Google map.
- 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.
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. 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 (To limit exposure to potential pathogens, we recommend your bring your own tents and sleep kits):
- 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|
River Runners Responsibility Code
1. Read the pre-trip literature and arrive at the meeting place on time.
2. Understand the risks: your safety is ultimately your responsibility.
3. 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.
4. Wear clothing and personal protective equipment suitable for the current conditions.
5. Listen to and follow the guides’ instructions.
6. Abide by the managing agency’s rules.
7. No drugs or alcohol prior to, or during, your trip.
8. Minimize your impact on the environment.
9. Treat your fellow guests and guides with respect and courtesy; harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
10. Your children are your responsibility!
Essential Eligibility Criteria for River Trips
The following are the physical and mental eligibility criteria for all participants on any OARS river trip.
- Ability to remain seated and balanced while in a whitewater craft while holding on with at least one hand.
- Wear a Type V Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches). Wearing leg straps may be required to ensure proper fit. Where required, properly wear a helmet.
- Ability to independently board and disembark a boat four to ten times each day. This may require stepping into the boat, and then maneuvering your body over and across tubes and fixed objects into a seated position.
- Ability to independently navigate shoreline terrain, including safely maneuvering around and across boulders, rocks, and slippery and uneven surfaces, under low branches, and around vegetation. This includes the ability to maintain your balance near precipitous ledges or cliffs.
- Ability to independently swim in whitewater or swift currents while wearing a PFD. This includes being an active participant in your own rescue, including having the ability to (a) keep your airway passages sealed while underwater, and regain control of your breathing when being submitted to repeated submersion under waves or currents; (b) orient yourself to new “in-river” surroundings; (c) reposition yourself in the water to different swimming positions; (d) swim aggressively to a boat or to shore in whitewater; (e) receive a rescue rope, paddle, or human assistance, and possibly let go of the same; (f) get out from under an overturned boat.
- Ability to swim 100 yards in flat water while wearing a PFD.
- Ability to assist another passenger who has fallen out of the boat by pulling them back in.
- Ability to follow both verbal and non-verbal instructions given by guides in all situations, including during stressful or dangerous situations, and to effectively communicate with guides and other guests.
- Ability to carry personal dry bags and other personal gear (as heavy as 20-30 pounds) uphill from the boats to your camping location and back the next morning, independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member. (This only applies on multi-day trips)
- Ability to manage all personal care independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member.
- If taking prescription medications, have the ability to maintain proper dosage by medicating independently, or with the assistance of a friend or family member.
- Ability to remain adequately fed, hydrated, and properly dressed so as to avoid environmental injuries such as hypothermia, heat related illness, sunburn and frostbite.
The above criteria, if not met, will disqualify a person from participating in a river trip with OARS. The criteria exist for your own safety and that of all trip participants. None of the criteria are meant to discriminate on the basis of any physical or mental disability, and are applied uniformly to all potential trip participants, irrespective of the presence or absence of any disability. OARS is committed to making reasonable modifications to any trip for any persons with a disability, so long as they do not fundamentally alter the nature of the trip.
Further Information About Our Expectations of Trip Participants
The following paragraphs are meant to further inform all potential participants of the expectations for all participants in order to promote a safe, enjoyable experience for everyone on a trip. There may be requirements, whether physical or mental, that are not specifically applied “essential eligibility criteria”, but that help our guests understand the reality of being on a wilderness river trip.
Our primary goal is to minimize the risks associated with adventure trips in a wilderness environment. The trip involves physical exertion and exposure to the elements, including cold water and the potential for heat, sun, wind, rain and snow. We have experience accommodating people with a wide range of physical disabilities and/or health conditions. However, individuals who are overweight, lack conditioning, or have other physical limitations or ailments that interfere with the realistic encounters on a wilderness river 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.
It is very important that each trip participant take an active role in their own safety. You will likely encounter wilderness conditions that you are unfamiliar with, and those conditions may change rapidly. It is critical to pay attention at all times, to be aware of your surroundings, and to avoid taking unnecessary risks. Even a non-life threatening injury in a wilderness setting can become a major emergency for you, and can endanger the entire group. Swimming alone or hiking alone is discouraged. Excessive alcohol consumption or illicit drug use is not tolerated. Using common sense, and following both the explicit instruction and the lead of your guides can go a long way towards keeping yourself and the group safe. Some obvious things to avoid in camp and on shore (by way of example) are: walking around without shoes in camp, approaching wild animals, not paying attention to what is above or around your tent site that could harm you, not paying attention to hazards such as poison ivy and rattlesnakes, and walking near precipitous ledges.
River trips, particularly those involving whitewater, are inherently risky. While the risk of a trip is part of what makes it an exciting adventure, you must be entirely respectful of the risk that such a trip poses. It is important that you are confident in your swimming ability, and your ability to stay calm in the event you become a non-voluntary swimmer. Your odds of becoming a non-voluntary swimmer change with the classification of a rapid, boat selection and environmental factors. On class IV and greater whitewater, the probability that you will become a non-voluntary swimmer is significant. A swim in whitewater is much more difficult and physically draining than swimming in flat water. Swimming in cold water can cause a gasping effect on your respiratory system. This can be overcome by focusing on your breathing and calming yourself down. Swimming in cold water will also much more quickly sap your energy and decrease muscle function than swimming in warmer water. While our guides are highly trained and will do their absolute best to rescue you, a successful rescue is greatly hampered by a swimmer who is unprepared for a swim in whitewater, who fails to actively participate in their own rescue, and who is not able to follow directions while under stress. You will receive a detailed orientation talk at the start of your river trip, but you can get a better idea of what to expect by watching a version of an orientation talk here: http://www.oars.com/videos/oars-whitewater-orientation.
Due to the physical nature of this trip, we highly recommend that you engage in regular exercise for at least three months prior to departure to ensure preparedness. No gym membership required! Simple exercises like push-ups, sit-ups and squats go a long way to improving core fitness. Start with these exercises and do three sets of ten repetitions each, three to four times per week. Aerobic training is also easy to accomplish without expensive equipment. Take 30 – 40 minutes two to three times a week and go for a brisk walk, easy jog or bike ride around town. If you have access to a pool, lake or the ocean, swimming is obviously an ideal choice for aerobic exercise. It provides a full-body workout and is training that is useful in the event of an involuntary swim in a whitewater rapid. It is important to push yourself in the months leading up to your trip by increasing your strength training repetitions and the pace of your aerobic training. Check with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program to be sure you are medically safe to participate. Starting an exercise program that is more strenuous than you are ready for may result in injury or risk exacerbating existing health conditions. Getting in shape will certainly add to your enjoyment of the trip.
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.
All guests must supply their own hand sanitizer and reusable/washable face coverings (minimum of two) such as a bandana, cloth mask, or neck gaiter. A clean face covering should be used each day of your trip; masks may be reused if they are washed.
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
☐ Reusable/washable face coverings (minimum of two) such as a bandana, cloth mask, or neck gaiter
☐ Hand sanitizer
☐ Shade hat/visor, flexible enough to wear underneath your helmet
☐ Sunglasses (preferably polarized) 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
☐ 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 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 also wish to place your camera in a durable, 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. (To order your photos online, you must request the photo link for your trip from Hotshot Imaging.) 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.
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 or personal check, 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.
If you enjoyed your trip, consider donating to The Pam & George Wendt 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 https://www.oars.com/oars-foundation/ to learn more about how a tax-deductible donation can change young lives for the better.
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
Explore gear made and tested for water-lovers
Recommended Reading List
Watch our “What to Wear and Bring” video
OARS practices a Leave No Trace conservation ethic
Additional information about the area
Terms & Conditions
To provide for some additional flexibility during these uncertain times and until further notice, we’ve temporarily deferred our final payment due dates and modified our cancel/transfer policy for all 2020 trips. That modified policy can be found here: https://www.oars.com/wp-content/themes/OARS/CXLdocs/OARS_COVID-19_CXL_1-Day_default.pdf
Cancellations and Refunds
Your payment is fully refundable for 48 hours after making a reservation when you reserve a trip 7 days or more prior to departure.
If you find it necessary to cancel your trip, please notify us as soon as possible. We do not make exceptions to the cancellation policy for any reason, including weather, wildfire, terrorism, civil unrest or personal emergencies. There is no refund for arriving late or leaving a trip early.
|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 for a fee of $30/person within the same year or $50/person to the following year. 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|
Please note that different deposit/cancellation policies may apply for charter groups. Refer to the group organizer’s confirmation e-mail for details.
If we are within 30 days of your trip departure, you may transfer from one trip to another, within the same season, for a fee of $30/person fee up until 7 days prior to departure. You may choose to make a one-time transfer of your payments to a credit account for use during the following season, which incurs a $50/person fee from 29 days prior up until 7 days prior to departure. Transfers made after this time will be treated as cancellations.
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 recommend that you protect yourself, your belongings and your vacation through the purchase of a comprehensive travel protection plan. A travel protection plan can help with reimbursement of your non-refundable payments in the event you have to cancel your trip (covered reasons for cancellation vary by policy and some reasons may not qualify for reimbursement). Because we begin working to prepare for your trip upon receipt of your deposit and may be turning other prospective guests away while holding space for you, there are cancellation fees that will apply regardless of why or when you might need to cancel. For information about comprehensive travel protection plans visit https://www.roamright.com/
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.
OARS trips occur in areas where unpredictable environmental conditions are to be expected. To moderate dangerous situations for our guests and guides, it is important that all travelers 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. On advancement of deposit the depositor agrees to be bound by the above recited terms and conditions. Prices subject to change without notice. OARS is an equal opportunity provider.