Bekeart’s Gun Shop, located in the Park, offers similar activities and old-fashioned trade goods. If you’re looking for a relaxing and fun stretch of Class II whitewater, then the section between the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park and Greenwood Creek is perfect. Mile 18.6: Hospital Bar Rapid (Class III) is the last big ride. Many boaters choose to avoid the fees at the Henningsen-Lotus Park by putting in at the bridge which crosses the South Fork of the American River. Weekends during the summer are extremely busy - if you can schedule a trip on a weekday, it will be a much less crowded (and probably more pleasant) experience. The South Fork of the American River boasts the most popular whitewater rafting and kayaking west of the Rockies, and the area provides many other great opportunities for recreation on and off the river. Advantages: A medium-length run with numerous exciting Class III rapids. As of 2017, jet ski tows across Folsom Lake for private boaters have been suspended by the Park Service. On low-water years, the competition moved downstream to First Threat Rapid. Mile 18.2: Weber Creek enters from river left in the middle of Bouncing Rock Rapid (Class III). It’s also sometimes referred to as “S-Turn” rapid. If you set your own shuttle, there are fees at both ends of the trip. (if you enter Placerville, you’ve gone too far). Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class IV-” or “Class IV+” respectively. At the end of the Gorge Run, boaters enter Folsom Lake; depending on the water levels, there is a short paddle to the Salmon Falls Bridge to take out. There is an optional tow out of the lake for a small fee. Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Mile 15.8: Fowler's Rock (Class III) is the first Class III Rapid downstream of Troublemaker. The outcropping just downstream is called Convict Rock. Pass through the 3-way stop sign to cross the bridge. Space is limited, so arrive early. The Chili Bar is the first available put-in on the South Fork of the American River, located just below the Chili Bar dam, about ten minutes from downtown Placerville. Put-In: Chili Bar Dam… The Salmon Falls parking lot is 5.7 miles on your left; if you cross the Salmon Falls Bridge, you’ve gone too far. In addition to being a put-in and take-out on the South Fork of the American River, the Marshall Gold Discovery Park has activities for all ages, including a museum, hiking trails and gold panning lessons. OLD SCARY (II). Directions from Coloma: Take Hwy 49 southeast (away from the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park). Henningsen-Lotus park is a half-mile down the road on your right. It’s rated Class III at moderate summer flows, but at high water or early in the season should be considered Class III+ or IV. Mile 16.9: Satan's Cesspool Rapid (Class III+) is the biggest rapid of the Gorge run. Old Scary used to be one of the most difficult rapids on the Chili Bar-to-Coloma section of the South Fork until high water in 1982 rearranged it. Distance: 21 miles, 1 or 2 days. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. Recent additions to this access include a larger parking lot and pit toilets. This full-day adventure is long, but it moves quickly due to the steady descent and swift current of the South Fork of the American River (note: reduced flows after July may extend the duration of your trip). Put in at the Chili Bar Dam. This 5.6 mile section of river is composed of flat water and a few Class I-II rapids. The trip begins with moderate Class II whitewater, which serves as a warm-up for the exciting rapids in the Gorge. Most paddlers run the river with a commercial rafting company. Based in California, O.A.R.S. The Class III whitewater here is more continuous, with fewer long stretches of calmer water for relaxation. Exciting rapids include Satan’s Cesspool, Bouncing Rock, Pre-Op, Hospital Bar, and Recovery Room. Mile 1.5: Maya (II+) has a great kayak surf wave at most river flows. Proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential. Built in 1917, this one-lane bridge is the thenth structure to have spanned the site. Scouting is recommended but may be difficult. It was named in July 1903 when a storekeeper spotted the clothes of 13 escaped Folsom Prisoners. Private groups of more than 20 must complete a large group registration form, also available at those locations. Boaters can run either to the left or to the right at normal and high flows; at lower flows, only the run to the right is possible. This is the biggest rapid on the upper section of this whitewater rafting trip. This stretch of whitewater is 12.5 miles long. HOSPITAL BAR (III). If you would prefer an easier put-in for a Class II float, try putting in at the bridge (if there is parking along the road) or at the Henningsen-Lotus State Park. This is also a great place to camp. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. We will paddle from Chilli Bar to Salmon Falls Bridge, a distance of 20.5 miles. The access point is sometimes known as Skunk Hollow. For outfitted kayaking trips on the South Fork of the American River, check out California Canoe & Kayak. The day begins with the exciting rapids on the Chili Bar Section, including Meatgrinder, Sluice Box, and Troublemaker. There is a long stretch of calmer Class II whitewater between Troublemaker and Fowler’s Rock; this section is great for floating, relaxing, swimming, and eating lunch. This discovery triggered the California Gold Rush of 1849, sometimes referred to as the largest human migration for a single purpose since the Crusades. This park is run by the County of El Dorado. You may review and/or purchase photos after completing your American River rafting experience. Mile 9: River access at Camp Lotus (for a fee). Mile 7.4: Paddle under the Highway 49 Bridge. The third drop is after a sharp left-hand bend. If the reservoir is low, Class II rapids continue to mile 20. At high flows, this rapid has some huge waves and holes. The first Class III rapid is Fowler’s Rock, recognizable by the large boulder in the middle of the river. At higher water levels, Troublemaker can turn into a Class IV rapid, where boaters should use extreme caution. The river bends sharply left, with an island midstream. Due to COVID-19 regulations, all riders are required to bring a face mask and wear it while in the vans or be turned away. If you’re interested in a short Class III trip, then you should try starting at Greenwood Creek and ending at Folsom Lake. If you would prefer a less regulated put-in for a Class II float, try putting in at the bridge (if there is parking along the road) or at the Henningsen-Lotus State Park. Combines the Chili Bar and Gorge runs into one long stretch from Chili Bar put-in to Salmon Falls Bridge. Directions from Coloma: Drive northwest into the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. Disadvantages: Earlier in the season, boaters must paddle the lake to reach the take-out. A rock above the final drop provides a good vantage point for photographers and spectators. There is a submerged rock in the center of this rapid, with most of the whitewater pushing towards the right into a rock wall. You must have permission, and there are use fees associated. To run a private trip down the river, an access permit is required. To discuss your desire to put-in and the potential use fees, please contact the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park at (530) 622-3470. Camp Lotus is one of the old-time favorite put-in/take-out spots, but you can also use Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park or Henningsen Lotus Park. BEGINNER’S HOLE RAPID (II). Upstream from the Chili Bar stretch, expert boaters can test their skills on the Kyburz stretch, Slab Creek, Ice House, and other runs. Are you excited about rafting the South Fork of the American River, but not ready to do it on your own? This is one of the most accessible boat launch areas on the South Fork of the American River, located right next to the bridge on Highway 49.

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