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Mother Lode Field Office

South Fork American River

View of the South Fork American RiverRafting "Troublemaker" rapids on the South Fork American RiverPhoto of numerous rafts along the banks of the South Fork American River

General Information

The Gold Rush river, the South Fork American, today still delivers its own special currency as the most popular (and most populated) whitewater run in California. Even before James Marshall's fortuitous 1848 find in John Sutter's mill race, the Rio de los Americanos flaunted its reputation as a wild and capricious mountain stream.

Today, tempered by upstream dams, the South Fork still lurches and bucks through cataracts of boulders, drops and chutes, on its headstrong plunge through Meatgrinder, Fowlers Rock, and Satan's Cesspool, then delivers a rough goodbye at Hospital Bar. Along with these heart-stopping rapids, you'll no doubt come to shore long enough to do some discovering of your own at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. The twenty-one (21) mile river run can be made in a full day or a more relaxing two day trip. Picknicing is availble at the Dave Moore Nature Area which is accessible by automobile from Highway 49 or by boat on the river.  Contact the Mother Lode Field Office for a list of permitted outfitters.

When to go: Spring-Summer

Getting there: Take U.S. 50 to the town of Placerville, then follow Hwy 49 to Hwy. 193 to the Chili Bar Reservoir. Highway 49 also runs through Coloma for river access at the Henningsen-Lotus Park.

Put-in: Chili Bar, Henningsen-Lotus Park, Hwy. 49 Bridge West, Marshall Gold Discovery Park, Camp Lotus.

  River Class: III