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.
Donna Hunter started whitewater rafting as a hobby, but after spending 15 years as a social worker in San Diego, she was drawn back to the river as a career. With a few friends for support and a goal to start a rafting-adventure company, she went to night school and honed her business skills. Today, with some of her staff boasting more than 20 years experience leading tours, Donna orchestrates trips down various forks of the American, Merced, Kings, and Tuolumne Rivers to pit participants against rapids as high as Class V. Certified guides lead these tours in Hyside self-bailing rafts and inflatable kayaks, with some rafts holding up to eight people.
Wilderness guides also connect their guests with civilization, often combining rafting excursions with wine tastings and trips to local vineyards. On these overnight trips and other multi-day rafting excursions such as family gold-panning trips, they build relationships with their guests, garnering a clear idea of their paddling skills and the amount of time they've spent practicing in their washing machine.
The company?s camp boasts tent cabins?with names like Eagle's Nest and Falcon's Nest?which populate riverside clearings between picnic tables, swimming holes, and volleyball courts. A camp shop prepares guests with river gear, and hot-water showers let them wash off river water. When not seeking action on the river, staffers organize camp entertainment, such as live music, games, and visits from a local gold panner who demonstrates his craft.
Tim Carter, Jim Curtis, and Steve Bonak??the FAA?certified flight instructors at Placerville Aviation??pave pathways to the sky for their students by preparing them for the FAA Knowledge Exam and instilling basic and advanced piloting skills. Knowing that flight is a thrilling way to commute and the best way to challenge seagulls to staring contests, they, along with their crew of aviation-maintenance professionals, offer everything from basic flight experiences and private pilot training to hourly instruction. A fleet of planes encourages the learning of different instruments and equipment while also being available for rent for private use.