The South Fork of the American River, managed by the Bureau of Land Management Mother Lode Field Office, is considered one of California’s finest recreational resources surrounded by rich history. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy whitewater rafting and kayaking, picnicking, hiking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, gold panning, bicycling and camping. The river offers short shuttles between access points and dependable boating during summer months when other rivers are too low. This 21-mile river run can be made in a full day or a more relaxing two day trip for both beginning and intermediate boaters. If you are not an experienced rafter, plan your trip with one of the BLM-permitted commercial companies, which must meet strict standards for safety and quality of service.
The South Fork American also has special significance because of the river’s role in the Great California Gold Rush of 1849. In the town of Coloma and along the river is the site of James Marshall’s discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill on January 24, 1848.
Cronan Ranch Regional Trails Park, located in Pilot Hill, connects with the South Fork American River corridor from Greenwood Creek to Salmon Falls and is a day-use only area with no overnight camping. The area contains 12 miles of trails for non-motorized recreational activities. Terrain ranges from gently sloped to challenging hills, oak woodland and gentle riverfront trails. Portions of this trail system border private property, so please respect landowner rights by staying on designated routes. Also be aware that mountain lions and rattlesnakes are in the area. As part of the Leave No Trace campaign, if you pack it in – pack it out… and pack a little extra to help keep this area clean.
Next door to Cronan Ranch is the Magnolia Ranch Trailhead, about five miles north of the town of Coloma along State Route 49. The Magnolia Ranch Trailhead takes you along the 2.5 mile Gerle Loop Trail, which is an easy to moderate, mostly flat trail across rolling hills and oak woodlands with scenic views and access to the American River. The Gerle Loop trail ties into a more extensive trail system west of Hastings Creek.
The BLM strives to be a good neighbor in the communities we serve, where we provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts of all levels. Roughly half of the one mile loop trail in the Dave Moore Nature Area is ADA accessible to people with wheelchairs, walkers and strollers. Nestled in the heart of Gold Rush Country, the trail is lined with remnants from nearly 150 years ago when Chinese laborers channelled creek water by hand with pick and shovel for gold mining.
Learn more about these unique recreation sites at www.blm.gov/california or by calling the BLM Mother Lode Field Office at 916-941-3101.