At Mother Lode River Center’s 19-acre riverside camp, wooden bridges and river-stone paths crisscross beneath the shade of heritage oaks. For 40 years, the staff has upheld a mission of conserving this verdant expanse along the American River through recreational and educational programs. Leading half- and multiday whitewater-rafting trips on the South, Middle, and North Forks, guides ride with paddlers into Class III and IV+ rapids. Back on land, Mother Lode's team helps guests overcome real and perceived barriers through obstacles on the ropes course. Practicing what it preaches, the center adheres to sustainability practices such as heating water using solar energy, operating vehicles that run on 100% waste vegetable oil, and letting wild tents forage freely on the campgrounds.
To Action Whitewater Adventures' guides, setting is everything. During their full-day excursions, guides and groups mounted in rafts battle Class III and IV rapids just to make their way to a gourmet deli lunch set against the backdrop of the lush Lotus River Valley. Of course, they might argue the fun part is getting there.
They lead excursions down both the South and Middle Forks of the American River, some of the most popular rafting waters in the nation. On the South Fork, they conduct the "Chili Bar" run, a trip that covers up to 21 miles favored for its rough-and-tumble class III rapids and stellar countryside. The Middle Fork provides even rougher-and-tumbler Class IV rapids, the 18-mile journey punctuated by clear-flowing stretches populated by trout and adorable baby Poseidons.
Together, Pirate Rafting Company's guides have logged more than 15,000 miles on dozens of rivers. Their steadfast paddles continue to lead the charge as groups, seated in sky-blue rafts, crash into whitewater, spraying guests with mist like a surprise party for Shamu. Three separate stretches of river set the stage for these adventures. The North Fork American River includes Class IV+ rapids that blast the snowmelt against the dusk-colored rocks. The South Fork American River and Middle Fork American River include intense stretches, but are generally better suited to beginners.
Off the water, the guides demonstrate their expertise by setting up camp along the tree-lined banks and pitching tents beneath the stars.
Founded in 1978 out of a love of the plentiful whitewater rafting around Sacramento, W.E.T. River Trips has been outfitting rafters and leading trips continuously for the last 34 years. They maintain a ratio of one guide per six to eight guests on their trips to ensure less crowded boats and to make each trip more intimate and personal. W.E.T.'s tours explore more than 18 rivers' rapids ranging in difficulty from Class II to V. Trips often include camping, meals, river stories, and musical entertainment provided by the staff.
Groups meet at Camp Lotus for a brief orientation and safety prep before the rafting rally down to Lake Folsom begins. Ideal for all skill sets, CRA's program accommodates passengers ages seven and up. The four-hour journey shoves off into a gentle warm-up section of class-II waters to prepare for the gorge's jostling class-III rapids. Fourteen-foot self-bailing rafts equipped with first aid, river-rescue kits, and Coast Guard–approved life jackets safely seat eight passengers plus an expert guide. As a team, the boatload of adventurers navigates the water like a squirrel surfing in a washing machine, punching through white caps and splashing about wavy highs and lows along the 12-mile route. All gear is included, and participants are only required to pack products that make the trip more pleasurable (swimsuit, drinking water in a durable bottle, sunscreen, shoulder-mounted boom-box, and a dry change of clothes).
This four- to five-hour trip down the South Fork of the American River will bring you past some of the American's most beauteous sights and splash you with some of its wettest water. Rafters will be fitted with a life jacket and receive some basic river safety instruction before plunging into Class III rapids such as the Meat Grinder, Racehorse Bend, Maya, and more. The rapids have enough gusto to ensure a challenging good time but are not powerful to the point of feeling like you've been in a fist fight with Poseidon.