Before You Go

South Fork American River Rafting Gorge 1-Day



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. Please refer to your confirmation letter for the exact dates of your trip.

MEETING PLACE:OARS American River Outpost, 7330 River Park Drive, Lotus, CA 95651
MEETING TIME:10:30 AM/11:00 AM/11:30 AM (refer to your confirmation emails)
RETURN TIME:4:00 – 5:00 PM, depending on water levels
RIVER RATING:Class III (suitable for beginner to intermediate rafters)
RIVER MILES:13 river miles with 11 named rapids
PUT-IN:OARS American River Outpost
TAKE-OUT:Salmon Falls Bridge
BOAT TYPE:Paddle raft, paddle raft with oar assist

Itinerary at a Glance

The Day of Your Trip

  • Meeting place & time: We’ll meet near our camp store at the OARS American River Outpost at 10, 11, or 11:30 AM, depending on what your pre-trip emails note. 
  • On the river: Refer to the trip page for a more detailed sample itinerary.
  • At the take-out: We’ll board an OARS shuttle for an ~30-minute drive back to the American River Outpost, generally arriving between 4 and 5 PM. 

*If you plan to camp with us, all camping must be booked in advance. See pre- and post-trip accommodations below for more info.


  • Skilled, professional guide service
  • Delicious, riverside picnic lunch
  • High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddle, helmet, personal flotation device, and wetsuits and splash tops (included on early and late season trips, cold weather trips, and by advance request)
  • Transfers from the river take-out back to our campground


  • 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)
  • Sleep kits or tents, if you are staying overnight with us (available for rent)
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Wetsuit booties or shoes of any kind
  • Gratuities

Getting Ready


Consider Purchasing Travel Protection: Learn more about the plan we highly recommend and get a quote.

Trip Forms: 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.

Reserve flights, shuttles, and lodging: Verify with your adventure consultant that your trip has met minimum numbers prior to booking flights and/or reserving overnight lodging for the night before and after your trip, if applicable.

Whitewater Orientation: To increase your safety, we expect everyone to watch our Whitewater Orientation video before joining us. 

Physical Requirements: Your outdoor adventure will be an active participatory trip. Please inform us of any physical limitations you may have as soon as possible. If you exceed 260 pounds, please give us a call. Make sure you are exercising frequently in the months leading up to your trip and can meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria

Payments: Full payment is required at the time of booking.


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. Treat your fellow guests and guides with respect and courtesy; harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.

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.; alcohol is allowed in moderation in camp on overnight trips.

8. Minimize your impact on the environment.

9. 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.

10. Your children are your responsibility!

Travel Arrangements


View driving directions to the Outpost. Our entrance is adjacent to where Hwy 49 crosses the river, behind Hotshot Imaging and the River Park shopping center. Roads around here are winding, so please be sure to allow for plenty of travel time. 

By Air

The closest major airport is in Sacramento (SMF), which is served by most major airlines and car rental companies. The drive time from Sacramento is approximately one hour. Oakland (OAK), San Francisco (SFO), and Reno (RNO) are within a 3-hour drive.

By Shuttle from the Sacramento Airport

Folsom Lake Express: 916-984-3046

Lyft or Uber 


If you’re arriving by car, parking is available at the Outpost during your trip. Trucks, vans, or vehicles with rooftop tents, RVs, and trailers less than 30’ long may be welcome to be parked in our parking lot, with advance notice. Hook-ups are not available. Generators are strictly prohibited. 

OARS cannot accept responsibility for any loss or damage to vehicles or their contents.


Limited camping for rafters is available before and/or after your trip at the OARS American River Outpost in Lotus. All nights of camping 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

  • 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/night + $15/person/night camping fee

Platform tents are refundable if canceled at least two calendar days prior to scheduled arrival; cancellations within 48 hours of scheduled arrival will be non-refundable.

Useful Information

Dog Policy

No dogs are allowed at the OARS American River Outpost.


Please let us know if you have any medical issues or dietary needs that we’ll need to consider in planning your trip.


Fire activity can impact the air quality on our trips, and occasionally wildfires may be present in the immediate vicinity of where we’re traveling. In general, we will not cancel a trip on account of smoky conditions, except in cases of clear danger to life or property. 

Learn more about rafting during wildfire season with OARS, including info about some of our protocols and travel protection recommendations.


Leading up to your trip, we recommend checking for an up-to-date weather forecast for Lotus/Coloma, CA. However, it’s always important to be prepared for changing weather, especially during the months of April, May, and early June when California can experience extreme changes in weather.


 Air (Day)°FAir (Night)°FWater Temp °F

Packing for Your Trip

Watch our packing video for helpful information about what to wear and how to pack for day trips with OARS.

We want you to be prepared and comfortable for your trip. Below you’ll find some general tips for how to dress and what to pack and a comprehensive packing checklist. The need for warm weather or cold weather items should be based on a reliable weather forecast leading up to your trip.


We recommend starting with a bathing suit/swim trunks and a lightweight synthetic shirt, adding layers of synthetic or Merino wool long underwear and warmer clothes as needed. It can be very cool in the morning even in June, but especially in April or May. As the day warms, one may shed layers, though you might wear your synthetic/wool long underwear and fleece during the entire trip (along with our provided wetsuit and splash jacket, of course.)

Wearing cotton items on a river trip is only appropriate when the weather is hot. Cotton does not dry, and wet cotton will chill your body temperature.


The best choice is an amphibious shoe that drains water, protects your toes, and won’t come off in swirling currents. A retired pair of athletic shoes can work well, too. Sport sandals with a heel strap are a good option, especially on rivers with sandy beaches. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.

Sun Protection

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. Lightweight long pants may also be appropriate to protect your legs. A hat, sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses are also a must.


☐ Hand sanitizer
☐ Water bottle with a carabiner to attach it to the boat
☐ Sunscreen & lip protection: waterproof and SPF 30 or higher (aerosol sprays not recommended)
☐ Shade hat/visor which is flexible enough to fit under your helmet
☐ Polarized sunglasses with securing strap (consider bringing a spare)
☐ Swimwear: 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 an ankle strap (such as those made by Chaco®). “Aqua socks” strongly discouraged.
☐ Synthetic long underwear for spring and fall trips
☐ Dry clothes and shoes to change into after your trip to ensure a comfortable drive home

Please note: Provided wetsuits (on early/late-season or cold-weather trips) do not include “wetsuit booties.” You will need to bring your own or wear wool socks with tennis shoes as a good alternative.


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.


We advise that you leave your valuables at home or in your private vehicle and take on the river only what’s absolutely necessary.

  • Visit our Trip Resources page for more info on the use of drones, electronics, cannabis, CPAP Machines, firearms, and more.
  • Find all the gear you need for your trip online in the OARStore and 15% of your purchase helps provide under-resourced youth with outdoor adventure experiences.
  • Shop for the latest in top-quality clothing, footwear & outdoor gear at REI.



There are several professional companies taking photos of each raft at some of the South 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 American River Outpost campground; visit them after your river trip at their storefront on Hwy 49 to purchase photos or view and order them online.


Tipping is 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 a 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.

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.

Canceling your trip after your payment has been 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 for 48 hours, less a 3% processing fee, 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.

30 or more days before your trip$15 per person
29 – 3 days before your tripPayment can be transferred to another trip within the same year (or to a credit account for the following year) for $15/person transfer fee. No refund.
2 days or less before your trip50% 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 email for details.

Canceled Trips

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 before 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 canceled 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 canceled 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 $15/person fee up until 3 days before departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. If we are 2 days or less before your trip departure, 50% of your trip cost can be credited to another trip, within the same year only. Transfer requests made 2 days or less before 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.

Travel Protection

Because there are costs that you will incur if you cancel the spaces on this trip that we’re now holding for you, or in the event you need to be evacuated during the trip due to an unforeseen illness or injury, we strongly encourage our guests to purchase an optional travel protection plan. A travel protection plan may help reimburse the cost of your pre-paid, non-refundable payments in the event you are prevented from taking your trip for a covered reason. Trip participants must understand that in the event of an illness or injury on a wilderness trip, evacuation can be prolonged, difficult, and expensive. Learn more about the plan we recommend.

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.

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.

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 the 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 4 guests), and other factors. There is risk in whitewater rafting, particularly during high-water conditions. Rafts 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 guests 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 in 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.

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