For Right-Brained People

The best thing about the South Fork of the American River is that you can share it with everyone. We’ve taken fearless seven-year olds and their fretful grandparents and we’ve taken world adventurers and their neighbors who’ve never slept outdoors. We’ve taken company groups, scout groups, church groups, and single people who live alone in studio apartments in the big city. We’ve been joined by people celebrating birthdays, weddings, graduations, family reunions and just life in general. Some folks were at the upper end of their thrill threshold, others were at the lower end, but they all kept talking about Troublemaker or Hospital Bar (or both if they were on a 2 day trip). Everyone was in a paddle raft, (with a guide), participating and holding success in their own hands; unnerving at first, but unforgettable in the end.  

For the 2020 season, we’ll be offering one-day and two-day whitewater rafting trips on the South Fork of the American River. All trips meet at Camp Lotus, a beautiful campground right on the river in the rolling California foothills between Auburn and Placerville. The meeting place is about 1 hour east of Sacramento, 2 1/2 hours east of San Francisco and 1 1/2 hours west of South Lake Tahoe. We provide all of the rafting gear, food, and local transportation as well as friendly, fun, and informative guides (at least one in every raft!). You provide sunscreen and enthusiasm (and some camping gear on overnight trips). No previous experience is required.

2020 South Fork American Pandemic Adjustments

The two things everyone wants right now are to get far away from their living room and to not get too close to strangers.

Here’s how we can give you both:

BUY THE BOAT – For the 2020 season we have a minimum reservation size of 4 people on our one-day trips and 6 people on our two-day trips. Pay for 4 or 6 spaces and the entire raft is yours. If there are only two of you, it’ll be the two of you and one of our guides (and not awkward at all); if there are six of you, you’ll be in a raft together with one of our guides. If there are seven of you, we’ll split you into two rafts (three in one and four in the other). We won’t combine you in a raft with any other groups (but we may have more than one group on a trip).

GO WILD – Our two-day wilderness trips are a great way to get out of the house and away from the crowds. We raft the upper stretch of the South Fork on day one and finish at a raft-only accessible beach where we are often the only people around (especially mid-week). You’ll have your own private riverfront campsite. The next day we’ll continue downstream and raft the lower stretch of the river. We can run the trip for as few as two people (as long as you pay for six spaces).

BYOM – (Bring your own mask – for the van shuttle) – we’ll be requiring guests to wear masks during the short van rides before or after our trips. We’ll have some disposable ones in case you forget, but bringing your own buff or bandana or custom, homemade face-covering will conserve resources (and allow you to match your rafting outfit!)

WASH YOUR HANDS – We’ve always been good at sanitation, but this year you’ll see a few more hygienic protocols to help protect you, our guides, and society as a whole. Facemasks in shuttle vehicles, frequent wiping of surfaces, minimal communal-touch items, and, of course, our trademark insistence on hand-washing. We can’t eliminate the virus, but we are working hard to not let it come on our trips.

1 Day Upper or Lower Trips on the South Fork of the American

Length: 10 miles
Time: 10:00 am to ~ 4:00 or 5:00 pm
Class II – III+ (beginner)
Highlights: Troublemaker OR Hospital Bar
Includes: Hearty and healthy picnic lunch
Adults: $127 to $147
Youths (7 – 17): $99 (every day)
Groups (10 or more): $99 to $129

1 Day Upper or Lower Trip Details

Our one day trips on the South Fork of the American River are exciting journeys through the rolling foothills of California’s Mother Lode country. We will cover 10 miles of river and tackle over 20 rapids, from small riffles to big drops and take a break along the way for a wonderful, riverside picnic lunch. This is a really fun, gently-paced adventure for everyone.

We’ll meet you in the morning right on the river at beautiful Camp Lotus (look for us down by the river). Depending on that day’s flow and release schedule, your preference, and other conditions, we will either take a short bus ride in the morning, raft the Upper Stretch (Meatgrinder and Troublemaker), and finish up back at Camp Lotus or we will launch right at Camp Lotus, raft the Lower Stretch (Satan’s Cesspool and Hospital Bar), and take a short bus ride back to Camp Lotus at the end of the day.

Both stretches are 10 miles long and have about the same number and difficulty of rapids; the rapids on the Upper Stretch are spread out pretty evenly throughout the day whereas the Lower Stretch starts out more gently and then the bigger rapids are concentrated in the afternoon. If we do the Upper, you will be back to Camp Lotus around 3:00; if we do the Lower you will be back to Camp Lotus around 5:00. If you have a preference, let us know.

At the end of the day, you’ll end up back at Camp Lotus where you can shower, change, and grab something to eat.

Our one-day South Fork American River trips are great for first-time rafters yet still lots of fun for seasoned veterans.

Download a PDF of our One Day Upper or Lower Trip Details

View our Equipment List and Packing Guide for our One Day South Fork trips

Rapids/day: ~20

Gradient: 23 feet/mile

Signature Rapids: Troublemaker or Hospital Bar

Types of boats: Paddle rafts

Minimum recommended age: 12 before May 31; 9 in June; 7 after July 1

 2 Day Wilderness Camp Trips

Length: 20 miles
Time: 10:00 am (day 1) to 5:00 pm (day 2)
Difficulty: Class II – III+ (beginner)
Highlights: Satan’s Cesspool and Hospital Bar (day 1), Meatgrinder and Troublemaker (day 2).
Includes: 4 delicious meals, camping at a raft-only accessible wilderness beach along the river.
Adults: $269 to $309
Youths:(7 – 17): $199 to $269
Groups (10 or more): $229 to $289

2 Day Wilderness Camp Trips Details

Our Wilderness Trips camp right along the river at a secluded beach that is only accessible by raft; there is no vehicle access and we are usually the only people there. There is a great big beach, a gentle, serene stretch of river, and a cool, two-story, composting toilet; it is a really nice place to spend the night. These trips are great for people who want to get away from civilization but don’t have time for a longer trip out of the state.

The trips begin and end at Camp Lotus. We’ll meet you there in the morning, pack your camping gear into our waterproof bags, and then take a short van or bus ride upstream to the actual launching site at Chili Bar. We’ll raft about 12 miles on day one, stopping for lunch along the way, before arriving at the wilderness site in the early evening. We’ll camp here, usually completely alone – quite a change from the sometimes busyness of the river – and enjoy an evening and dinner along the river (prepared by our guides) before spending the night on the beach. In the morning, we’ll get up, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, pack up the rafts and head downstream for another 9 miles of fun rapids and another riverside picnic lunch. The river trip will end at Salmon Falls (Folsom Reservoir) and we’ll transport you back to your cars at Camp Lotus by around 5:00 on the second day.

Download a PDF of our Two Day Wilderness Camp Trip details

View our Equipment List and Packing Guide for our Two Day South Fork trips

Rapids/day: ~20

Gradient: 23 feet/mile

Signature Rapids: Troublemaker and Satan’s Cesspool and Hospital Bar

Types of boats: Paddle rafts

Minimum recommended age: 12 before May 31; 9 in June; 7 after July 1

All I’ve thought about all morning here in my office is yesterday’s trip. My son really, really enjoyed it, as did I. Too many things to list. Probably the best was seeing how happy my son and all his buddies were for the whole day in their raft and in the water together.

Jim Quilici

Water levels

NOTE: El Dorado County requires that we print the following notice: Water flows in the South Fork of the American River result from releases from hydro-electric facilities located upstream. Such water releases are not subject to the control of El Dorado County or commercial companies operating under permits from the county of El Dorado.