|MEETING PLACE:||OARS American River Outpost, 7330 River Park Drive, Lotus, CA 95651|
|GPS COORDINATES:||38.806327, -120.903538 (Intermittent GPS/cellular service in area)|
|MEETING TIME:||8:00 AM|
|RETURN TIME:||5:00 PM|
|RIVER RATING:||Class III (Suitable for beginner to intermediate rafters)|
|RIVER MILES:||21 river miles with 26 recognizable rapids|
|TAKE-OUT:||Salmon Falls Bridge|
|TRIP LENGTH:||1 Day|
|AGE LIMIT:||Minimum age is 7 (12 at high water)|
|BOAT OPTIONS:||Paddle raft; paddle raft with oar assist|
The South Fork of the American River is everyone’s favorite California river! As the river flows through the heart of Gold Country, it includes rapids which are challenging yet not extreme. There is plenty of time for you and your rafting companions to indulge in family or group bonding, playful joke telling, and spirited water fighting. In-between the rapids, there’s always a little time for a refreshing swim in the cool, clear water.
The South Fork’s long season and its close proximity to Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and the San Francisco Bay Area make this an extremely accessible river trip. This all-day trip combines both the Chili Bar section of the South Fork and the Gorge. Big waves and holes will thrill novice and experienced rafters alike.
- 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 seven paddlers)
The South Fork’s exciting Class III whitewater is great fun for the whole family! The water on the South Fork 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:
Your meeting time near the camp store of the OARS American River Outpost is 8:00 AM. The roads around here are winding, so please be sure to allow for plenty of travel time. From the parking lot, follow our signs to the check-in desk.
Once everyone has arrived, we’ll take a 25-minute shuttle ride to the put-in at Chili Bar. Our guides will present a thorough river orientation and safety talk, and then your adventure begins. After practicing your paddle-strokes, the morning starts off with a bang in Meatgrinder rapid! More fun and exciting rapids like Racehorse Bend, Maya and the famous Troublemaker Falls await you downstream.
Once we float past the historic town of Coloma, where gold was originally discovered in 1848, we’ll stop on a sandy beach for a delicious picnic. Your guides will lay out an abundant spread of cold cuts, cheeses, veggies and breads. Lunch is always accompanied by fruit, cookies, cold water and lemonade.
After lunch, enjoy a refreshing dip in the cool, calm waters before the South Fork’s Gorge. The Gorge’s Class III whitewater begins after the third sighting of the famous “Lollipop Tree.” Here, the canyon constricts, channeling the river over erosion-resistant boulders and ledges, creating a classic stretch of whitewater! Notorious rapids like Fowler’s, Satan’s Cesspool and Hospital Bar are sure to raise the pulse.
The fun comes to a close as you approach Folsom Reservoir and your take-out at Salmon Falls Bridge. From the water’s edge, there is a short, steep hill up to the parking lot where our shuttle vehicle, and restroom facilities, awaits you. If you’re feeling fit, our guides appreciate help carrying the rafts and other equipment up the hill. Please feel free to bow out if you wish. After enjoying a cold soda or juice from the cooler, we’ll head back to the OARS American River Outpost and your car, arriving around 5:00 PM.
- Skilled, professional guide service
- Delicious, riverside picnic lunch
- High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddle, helmet, personal flotation device and wetsuits (Wetsuits are only provided on early season—April to May—and cold weather trips)
- Transfers to the river and back from the meeting place
What’s Not Included?
- Transportation to the meeting place
- Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
- Items of a personal nature (see suggested packing list below)
- Insurance of any kind, including travel insurance
- Wetsuit booties
Meeting Place & Time
We’ll meet you at 8:00 AM at the OARS American River Outpost, located at 7330 River Park Drive, behind Hotshot Imaging’s store in Lotus.
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/LotusAfter 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. Right after crossing, you will see the “River Park” shopping center on the left, with signs for Hotshot Imaging. Use the center’s second entrance, where a left-turn lane is provided at River Park Drive. Look to the back of the center for 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)|
- 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 Van 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 $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
Bed & Breakfast Inns
- American River Inn, Georgetown (800) 245-6566
- Coloma Cottages, Coloma
- Rock Creek Inn, Georgetown (530) 333-4359
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: 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 and weather, 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 flotation device (maximum chest size of 56 inches)
- Climb in and out of the rafts multiple times each day
- 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, and then adding layers of synthetic long underwear and fleece 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 fit under 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 an ankle strap River/tennis shoes or river sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco®)
☐ Synthetic long underwear for spring and fall departures
☐ 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 (early-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’ll 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 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 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 campground; visit them after your South Fork of the American trip at their storefront on Hwy 49 to order pictures. (Photos for SFA trips are not available for purchase online.) For more information, visit www.hotshotimaging.com or call (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.
Watch our 23-minute Whitewater Orientation video
Shop for the latest in top-quality gear for your trip
Recommended Reading List
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 3 days prior||Payment can be transferred to another trip (within the same year) for $15/person transfer fee. No refund.|
|2 days or less prior||50% of the trip cost can be credited to another trip (within the same year)|
|Late arrivals or “no shows”||No refund or credit|
Under most circumstances, if you are of an adventurous spirit and in reasonably good health, you should have no problem enjoying an OARS trip. People with medical conditions, including pregnancy, should have a physician’s approval before taking an adventure travel trip.
We strongly recommend that you protect yourself, your belongings and your vacation through the purchase of a travel insurance 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 travelinsure.com/cobrand/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 4 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.