The American River is the most popular whitewater rafting destination in California, and for good reason! The South Fork’s action-packed Class III rapids are rollicking good fun for the entire family. The Middle Fork of the American combines challenging Class IV rapids with miles of beautiful wilderness scenery. And the North Fork sparkles with Class IV spring run-off thrills and pristine beauty. All three rivers also feature Class II sections perfect for family float trips or anyone looking for relaxation without the adrenaline factor.
Rafting with a Commercial Outfitter
Commercial whitewater rafting outfitters offer a wide variety of river experiences. Looking for wilderness camping? Bed and breakfast? Budget brown bag lunch? Fine wines and gourmet meals? Half day or two-day overnight? Bus from Sacramento, the Bay Area, South Lake Tahoe, Reno, or even Los Angeles? Prices vary a lot depending on the amenities, so shop until you find what best suits your group.
You can expect any outfitter to provide both experienced guides and all the necessary equipment, including rafts, paddles, and life jackets. You’ll need to bring all your personal items: sunscreen, rugged “wettable” clothes, old tennis shoes, a hat that can be tied to your head, and a gung-ho attitude. Early in the season (through May and sometimes June) you will need a wetsuit, which you can rent either from your outfitter or from The River Store in Lotus.
The outfitters listed below are all licensed to operate on the American River. Contact them directly to find out what they offer and to book your trip.
- American River Recreation
Providing high quality rafting trips since 1979. We offer trips for all skill levels. Family friendly floats start at just $49. Same day reservations welcomed. 1/4-day to 4-day trips available. 800-333-7238, 530-622-6802
- WET River Trips
California whitewater rafting with W.E.T. River Trips since 1978 with professional guides for groups, scouts, families and custom packages. 888 RAFT-WET, 888-723-8938
- O.A.R.S. American River Rafting
Since 1969, O.A.R.S. has set the unforgettable standard in whitewater rafting adventures on over 35 rivers of the world. 1/2-day to 3 day trips in California range from easy to epic. 800-346-6277
- Tributary Whitewater Tours
Whitewater rafting on the 3 forks of the American River and many others. Special trips where kids raft half-price and other discounts available. Express runs to 3+ days. April-September. 800-672-3846
- Mother Lode River Trips
Celebrating 40 years of leadership in Whitewater Rafting and stewardship on the American River. Enjoy our zip-line at the premier multi-sport River Center on the West Coast. 530-626-4187
- American Whitewater Expeditions
Offering fun, exciting, rafting adventures on 3 Forks of the American River since 1980. Best value guaranteed! 1/2 , 1 and 2 day trips include camping, pool and Wi-Fi. Generous Discounts. 800-825-3205, 530-642-0804
- All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting
One of California’s few original outfitters with over 50 years experience rafting ten California rivers. More people choose All-Outdoors making us the largest, most experienced outfitter on the American Rivers. 800-247-2387
- Beyond Limits Adventures
Our fabulous riverfront camp resort provides the most deluxe rafting experience in the west. We specialize in custom itineraries. Prices start at $65 pp, groups of 6 or more get a 20% discount. 800-234-7238
- Whitewater Excitement
American River Rafting Specialists since 1978. Half day trips from $79. Family friendly. 1/2 day to 3-day trips available from mild to wild. 800-750-2386
- Adventure Connection
Safe, affordable 1/2, 1 and 2-day trips suitable for kids 7-75. Call this morning and be rafting this afternoon. (800) 556-6060
- EarthTrek Expeditions
Mild to wild whitewater rafting trips American River since 1977. Beautiful private river front camp with grass lawn, game areas and large deluxe cabin tents. Generous group and family discounts. 800-229-8735
- Whitewater Connection
Whitewater Connection offers exciting 1/2-day, one-day and 2-day whitewater trips for beginners to advanced paddlers. Beautiful scenery, best river front campground in the valley! An abundance of FUN! 800-336-7238
- Environmental Traveling Companions (ETC)
Opens the beauty and challenge of the great outdoors to people with disabilities, youth, families, and supportive businesses. Every year, more than 1,000 people join ETC rafting trips on the South Fork of the American River. (415) 474-7662 x15, (530) 642-8189
- Action Whitewater Adventures
We have new gear, an amazing international staff, and we love what we do. Youth specialists. 1-7 day excursions. 888-922-8466
- ARTA River Trips
Friendly guides, healthy food, family style. South Fork, Middle Fork, Guide School. Since 1963. 800-323-2782
- Mariah Wilderness Expeditions
Rafting trips, top quality and safe, on South and Middle Forks of the American River. 800-462-7424 or 530-626-6049
- River Runners
There really is a difference, let us show you! Customer Centered and Family Friendly Whitewater Rafting. 800-818-7238
Christian Adventure Camp designed for youth groups. An assortment of 1 to 5 day adventures. 800-738-0555
- Rubicon Adventures
Rubicon believes in direct passenger participation during your river adventure. Whitewater rafting specialists since 1972. 707-887-2452 or 707-477-4037
Decided You Want to Row Your Own?
Private rafters can find more information on the whitewater kayaking page. And in the Logistics & Trip Planning section you’ll find lots of resources for those rowing or paddling their own boats, including information about river conditions.