Before You Go

Two-Day Middle Fork American River Rafting



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
RETURN TIME:Approximately 4:00 – 5:00 PM on Day 2
RIVER RATING:Class IV (suitable for adventurous first-timers to advanced rafters)
RIVER MILES:16 river miles with 9 recognizable rapids
PUT-IN:Oxbow Reservoir
TAKE-OUT:Driver’s Flat Rd.
TRIP LENGTH:2 days/1 night
BOAT TYPE:Paddle raft

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1

  • Meet near our camp store at the OARS American River Outpost at 7:30 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 a 1-hour shuttle ride to our put-in at Oxbow Reservoir.
  • At the put-in, 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! Refer to the trip page for a more detailed sample itinerary.

Day 2

  • The next morning, following a hot breakfast, we’ll have time to repack our gear before we get back in the boats for another full day on the river.
  • As we reach the take-out, an OARS shuttle will be waiting to drive us ~45 minutes back to the OARS American River Outpost. Our shuttle driver will have snacks, cold sodas, and sparkling water ready upon our arrival. 
  • The trip concludes back at the Outpost around 4 – 5 PM. You’re welcome to use our restroom and shower facilities before heading home or stay with us for another night or two if you plan to explore the region. Additional nights of camping must be booked in advance. 


  • Skilled, professional guide service
  • 1 night catered camping
  • All meals from lunch on day 1 through lunch on day 2
  • 1 waterproof bag to hold your gear for the trip (13” diameter x 25” tall; 3318 cu in; 54.4 L—approximate sealed size). If you rent a sleep kit from us, it will come already packed into the waterproof bag you are issued and will take up about 1/3 of the space in the bag. Your remaining personal gear must fit into this bag with the sleep kit.
  • 1 small, shared waterproof bag per raft for a camera and other small items you’ll want during the day (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter; 1081 cu in; 17.7 L)
  • High-quality inflatable rafts and related river equipment including paddle, helmet, personal flotation device, wetsuits, and splash tops (included on early and late season trips, cold weather trips, and by advance request)
  • Transfers from the meeting place to the river and back


  • Transportation to the meeting place and back
  • River Access Fees
  • Pre- and post-trip accommodations and meals
  • Items of a personal nature (see suggested packing list below)
  • Insurance of any kind, including a travel protection plan
  • Alcoholic beverages (you’re welcome to BYOB in non-glass containers)
  • Gratuities
  • Sleep kits, available to rent
  • Tents (double-occupancy), available to rent

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 and the River Park shopping center

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 comfy twin beds, all bedding, and a private deck with two chairs): $129/night (includes camping fee)

Please note that camping reservations must be made in advance of arrival and guests may check-in between 3:30 and 8 PM. Payments for platform tents at the American River Outpost are refundable if canceled at least 7 calendar days prior to scheduled arrival; cancellations made 6 days or less prior to scheduled arrival are 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 Auburn, CA. However, it’s always important to be prepared for changing weather, especially during early June when California can experience extreme changes in weather.


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

Packing for Your Trip

For more helpful information about what to wear and how to pack for a river expedition or to view our packing video, please visit our packing essentials page.

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.


During the day—Start with a swimsuit and/or swim trunks and a synthetic or Merino wool shirt as a base layer. Depending on the weather, temperature, and how wet you’re getting in the rapids, additional layers for sun protection or insulation can be added or subtracted.

In camp—When the weather is warm, a pair of lightweight cotton pants or shorts and a shirt make great camp wear. Anytime the forecast calls for cool evenings and cold nights, a dry set of long underwear is the perfect base layer under long pants and a fleece sweater.


During the day—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. Find professional-grade options made by Chaco®, the official footwear sponsor of OARS guides.

In camp—We recommend wearing shoes in camp due to the risk of kicking a rock buried in the sand, or stepping on a sharp stick. It’s also nice to put on dry socks and shoes after a day on the water. The athletic shoes or light hikers you bring for hiking can double as your camp shoes. Flip flops or slip-on sandals are OK for wearing in camp only.

If you buy new shoes or sandals for the trip, make sure you break them in first!


During the day­—Wide-brimmed hats are a good choice for sun protection. Ball caps are also useful since they fit under helmets, which are required attire when paddling our whitewater rivers.

In camp—When the weather is cool or cold, you’ll want a beanie-style hat to wear in camp. Warm hats are the perfect remedy for bed-head as you rise from your sleeping bag to secure your morning cup of coffee or tea, or for retaining warmth in the evening hours after the sun sets.

Hot Weather Trips

During the summer months, conditions on the river may be hot and sunny. These trips require less gear than spring or fall trips, but thoughtful packing is still required. Protection from the sun and heat will be critical to your enjoyment and health while on the river and during side hikes. To protect yourself from the sun’s rays, consider bringing long-sleeved shirts and pants.

A good way to keep cool is with a sarong or long-sleeved cotton shirt. Old collared dress shirts work well. They can be soaked in the water and worn in the raft or carried on a hike for later use. This method of evaporative cooling is very effective. Bandanas are another useful item that can be used in this manner.

Camp-wear should be made of cotton and be loose-fitting. A combination of shorts/skirt and a lightweight top is ideal for staying cool on hot afternoons.

To Avoid Being Cold

Synthetic or Merino wool long underwear is a must-have on river trips. It can be worn under shorts, rain gear, T-shirts, etc., then stripped off when the chill of the morning has worn off. It keeps you warm even if it’s wet (which can happen easily), dries quickly, and it’s compact enough to be stuffed into your small waterproof bag or daypack after you take it off. It can be layered under your waterproof rain jacket and pants. In cooler weather, a rain jacket and pants can work better than a wetsuit. This is because the jacket and pants can be put on when it’s cold or when you’re going through whitewater and then easily taken off when the sun comes out and it’s hot. 

After June 1st, wetsuits will be available by advance request only. Be aware that cotton items, once wet, do not insulate; only synthetic and wool materials will keep you warm during cool, wet weather.

Something warm for your top and bottom: You need to be prepared for inclement weather. Bring a good fleece or wool top and bottom, along with a warm hat and gloves. You’ll want to double up on your base layers so that you’ll have a set to wear in the boat and a set of warm, dry clothes for camp.

Rain Gear

Rain gear protects you from rain, wind, and the splash of the rapids. It is one of the essential items that all passengers should have no matter what time of year they are traveling. Look for a jacket and pants that are 100% waterproof, not just water resistant. A hooded jacket is recommended. Good secure closures around your head, neck, wrists, and ankles. Do not bring a rain poncho, as it cannot be worn under your PFD.

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.

Bugs & Mosquitoes

Bugs and mosquitoes vary depending on location and time of year. It’s a good idea to come prepared with insect repellent. Long-sleeved shirts and pants may be desirable at times. Often yellow jackets and wasps can be a nuisance. We recommend a eucalyptus and lemongrass repellent. If you are allergic, please bring two epi-pens.


Even if you aren’t anticipating your menstrual period, come prepared for it. We recommend you bring some sandwich-size zip-close bags. These bags can store products during the day while you are on the river. Used pads or tampons can be disposed of in the trash at lunch or at camp. We provide some menstrual products on most trips for emergencies.

Sleeping Gear

You can either bring your own sleeping bag, pad, and ground tarp, or you can rent our sleep kit. If you are bringing your own bag for the trip, keep in mind that a synthetic-fill bag rated to 20°F (the normal range for an all-around, “three-season” bag) is recommended for early and late season trips.


☐ Sleeping bag, pad, ground tarp
☐ Small tent
☐ Headlamp or flashlight
☐ Small bags: stuff sacks, zip-close plastic bags, or similar for organizing items in your dry bag
☐ Large empty bag: laundry bag, pillow case, or similar for putting clothes into after your trip
☐ Insect Repellent
☐ Sunscreen & lip protection: waterproof and SPF 30 or higher
☐ One 1-liter water bottle
☐ Toiletries, towel (such as those made by Rumpl), and washcloth
☐ Ball cap/visor, flexible enough to wear underneath 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 shoes or sandals with a heel strap (such as those made by Chaco®); “Aqua socks” strongly discouraged
☐ Dry footwear for camp
☐ Synthetic long underwear for spring trips
☐ Warm socks (neoprene or wool)
☐ Dry clothes and shoes to change into after your trip

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

Packing Your Gear

On the morning of day one, each person will be given one waterproof bag (approximate sealed size: 25” tall x 13” diameter; 3318 cu in; 54.4 L) for their clothing, personal items, and sleeping gear. If you rent a sleep kit from us, it will come already packed into the waterproof bag you are issued and will take up about 1/3 of the space in the bag. Your remaining personal gear must fit into this bag with the sleep kit. This dry bag will essentially be your “checked luggage” and will only be accessible in camp. Tents are stowed separately.

We also provide one small, shared waterproof bag per raft for day use where you can keep items such as rain gear, camera, sunscreen, lip balm, etc. (approximate sealed size: 17” tall x 9” diameter; 1081 cu in; 17.7 L). All bags are cylindrical in shape and pack from the top. Please pack light; river attire is very casual―comfort, convenience, and boat space take precedence over style.


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.



There are several professional companies taking photos of each raft at the Middle Fork’s famous Tunnel Chute. These companies are not affiliated with OARS, and you will need to contact them separately to purchase these pictures.

  • Hotshot Imaging allows you to view and order photos 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

Reservations and Payments

Full payment is required at the time of booking.

Payments can be made by check, money order, eCheck, wire transfer, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. 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. 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.

Cancellations and Refunds

Canceling your trip after your deposit is 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. If you must cancel your reservation after the rescission period described above, your cancellation fee will be determined according to the schedule below.

Payments for platform tents at the American River Outpost and cabin tents at EarthTrek are refundable if canceled at least 7 calendar days prior to scheduled arrival; cancellations made 6 days or less prior to scheduled arrival are non-refundable.

We regret that 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. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to consider purchasing a travel protection plan.

30 or more days before your trip$30/person
29 – 7 days before your trip$50/person. The remainder of your trip payment can be transferred to another trip within the same year (or to a credit account for the following year). No refund.
6 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 prior to departure. Do not make non-refundable travel arrangements until you have verified with OARS that your trip is confirmed.

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 $30/person service fee and any non-refundable 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 cannot 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 30 days prior to departure for a one-time transfer of your payment. If we are 29-7 days prior to your trip departure, there is a $50/person fee to transfer to another trip, within the same year or to a credit account for the following year. If we are 6 days or less prior to departure, 50% of your trip cost can be credited to another trip within the same year only.


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 6 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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