Additional information is available on the Coloma Shuttle website. TRIPLE THREAT (III). 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. BEGINNER’S HOLE RAPID (II). For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels, after close personal inspection and taking all precautions. If you set your own shuttle, there are fees at both ends of the trip. Please review our COVID-19 policies. Showing all 3 results. For a detailed description of the rapids you will encounter in each section, please visit the mile by mile guide. This is a fun little surfing wave where kayakers like to practice their rolling skills. The Salmon Falls parking lot is 5.7 miles on your left; if you cross the Salmon Falls Bridge, you’ve gone too far. The river turns left down a narrow, rocky chute with big, irregular waves. A fast, reliable eddy turn may be needed to initiate maneuvers, scout rapids, or rest. First Threat Rapid is a favorite kayak surfing hole and home of the American River Festival Rodeo.
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. The outcropping just downstream is called Convict Rock. BLM Land on both sides makes for great public stopping points. The parking lot will be the last right as you pass through the park. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. 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. The recommended take-out for the Class II stretch is at Greenwood Creek. Because of the large range of difficulty that exists beyond Class IV, Class 5 is an open-ended, multiple-level scale designated by class 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, etc… Each of these levels is an order of magnitude more difficult than the last. All private boaters are held accountable to the rules and regulations put forth by the Bureau of Land Management. Public restrooms are available. RECOVERY ROOM (II+). UPPER HAYSTACK CANYON (II+). Bekeart’s Gun Shop, located in the Park, offers similar activities and old-fashioned trade goods. Located in the foothills of the Sierras, the South Fork of the American is one of the most beloved day trips in the United States.The river is generally runnable year round because of dam-controlled flows and makes for great boating no matter what the season. Those who decide to invest the time in learning to navigate the river themselves will also find the South Fork a great destination. Mile 7.4: Paddle under the Highway 49 Bridge. level: 1,000 – 5,000 cfs Put-in: Chili Bar Take-out: Salmon Falls Bridge. Big, fun waves and clean drops. If it’s early in the season, you might have a short paddle on the reservoir to Salmon Falls Bridge on Folsom Lake, which is the final take-out for the South Fork of the American River. 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. Flows: 800 – 1800 CFS, measured as release from Chili Bar dam (CBR) Gradient: 23 fpm average (upper 31 fpm, lower 21 fpm) pool and drop. Tags and forms are available at Camp Lotus, Henningsen Lotus Park and Chili Bar. Please check the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park website for additional information. Meatgrinder is also known as “Quarter Mile Rapid” because of its length. Disadvantages: the put-in at Greenwood Creek is longer than at most other put-ins and take-outs.
The river drops quickly, creating large standing waves.
This trip starts just above Swimmer’s Rapid and travels 9.1 miles to the take-out at Salmon Falls Bridge. SouthForkAmericanRiver.net is owned and managed by the O.A.R.S. This is the first big rapid on the South Fork’s lower section. First Threat is a nearly river wide hole great for kayak surfing.
Mile 20.5: Take-out at Salmon Falls Bridge on the right side, upstream of the bridge. HIGHWAY RAPID (II+). 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. Space is limited, so arrive early. Kayakers surfing at Maya Rapid on the South Fork. GPS Coordinates: 38.77384894, -121.03447149. There is no charge for loading and unloading boats, assuming that stay is less than 15 minutes. Gorilla Rock and Convict Rock.
Kayaking Meat Grinder Rapid on the South Fork of the American River. Mile 9: River access at Camp Lotus (for a fee). FOWLER’S ROCK (III). Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Named for a medical tent set up here during the Gold Rush, this is the last big, splashy rapid on The Gorge Run. Proper equipment, extensive experience, and practiced rescue skills are essential. Satan’s is the biggest rapid in the Gorge Run of the South Fork of the American River. A relaxing stretch of Class II whitewater wraps up the trip. SON OF SATAN’S or DEAD MAN’S DROP (II+). As an experienced adventure seeker, you might be interested in running the South Fork of the American as a private boater. Kayaking Troublemaker Rapid – Photo by Nicko Hawkins, The South Fork flows along the foothills of the Sierras, Length: 20 miles (shorter runs possible) Gradient: 23 fpm Difficulty: III+ Season: Year round Permits: Boat tags Rec. Mile 1.5: Maya (II+) has a great kayak surf wave at most river flows. If you see Lilyama Road on the right, you’ve gone too far. Up to 4 people in 1 car, valid 7 days a week, Up to 4 people in 1 car, valid Monday—Friday.
Most paddlers run the river with a commercial rafting company. 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). Rapids that are at the lower or upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class III-” or “Class III+” respectively. 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. This tag must be attached to each boat, and contains important health and safety guidelines for all boaters, whether novice or experienced. This beautiful little spot is a great option for a put-in if you want a short run of the South Fork of the American River. Risk to swimmers is slight; self-rescue is easy. Advantages: Great half-day adventure for beginners with Class II whitewater. Coloma Bridge. Mile 5.7: River access at Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. Two Day South Fork Trip Lower Gorge + Chili Bar. Intermediate boaters enjoy the increased challenge of the “Chili Bar” and “Gorge” runs, and the expert kayakers spend hours perfecting their rodeo moves in the world-famous Chili Bar Hole, First Threat, Maya, and other play spots. is among the most experienced and offers a variety of trips throughout the western U.S., from half-day excursions to 18-day expeditions. Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. Here is a …
Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. To discuss your desire to put-in and the potential use fees, please contact the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. The access point is sometimes known as Skunk Hollow. Directions from Coloma: Drive northwest through the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. If you set your own shuttle, there are fees at both ends of the trip. It is also the last available take-out if you do not wish to run the Gorge section of the river. There are no access fees, so parking there is free; however, the hike to the river is a little longer at about a quarter mile. We will paddle from Chilli Bar to Salmon Falls Bridge, a distance of 20.5 miles. Cross the bridge over the South Fork of the American River and drive for 6.7 miles. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated “Class II+”. Advantages: An exciting full-day adventure of Class III whitewater. As of 2017, jet ski tows across Folsom Lake for private boaters have been suspended by the Park Service.
After your day on the water make sure to visit one of our photography companies to see your action shots. After you cross the bridge, turn left into the Chili Bar River Park and find parking. Henningsen-Lotus Park (put-in or take-out). Distance: 21 miles, 1 or 2 days. Maya is a favorite surf and lunch spot for kayakers and private rafters. Disadvantages: Marshall Gold Discovery State Park is highly regulated. The private boat take-out is on the right-hand side of the lake, right at the base of the bridge. Put-In: Chili Bar Dam… Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims. As the lake levels drop later in the season, it’s possible to raft right up to the bridge. Directions from Coloma: Drive northwest into the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park.
If you’d like to visit the area, or learn more about the history of the river and the Coloma-Lotus valley, don’t miss the Coloma Valley website. A rocky chute. CURRENT DIVIDER RAPID (II+). Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers. To run a private trip down the river, an access permit is required.
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