The American River originates in the high Sierra Nevada just west of Lake Tahoe, in the Tahoe and El Dorado National Forests. Its three main forks—the South, Middle, and North—flow through the Sierra foothills and converge east of Sacramento. Along the way, their water, rapids, lakes, and reservoirs provide recreation, power, and irrigation for northern California.

Whether you are looking for whitewater action, calm-water paddling, fishing a clear lake, or hiking along a cool stream, you'll find a place to love on the American.

Three Forks, Three Unique Watersheds

Despite each originating in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the three forks of the American River have distinct "personalities," reflecting the environment through which each flows.

North Fork

The North Fork of the American River is the American River’s wild child. Most of the whitewater portions of the river are for experts only. During the summer, flows are too low for boating, so the North Fork becomes a spectacular hiking region, with demanding canyon trails, Sierra foothills beauty, and the river providing cool swimming holes for resting.

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Middle Fork

The Middle Fork of the American River provides a variety of boating challenges, from experienced to expert. Though much of the land is privately owned, the river is open to all. The Middle Fork’s canyons provide challenging terrain for the world-famous Tevis Cup equestrian trail ride and the Western States 100-Mile Trail Run, both beginning at Squaw Valley and leading to Auburn via remote wilderness trails.

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South Fork

The South Fork of the American River is the most friendly and welcoming of the three, with river fun for novices as well as experts and thrill-seekers. More people boat the South Fork than any other river west of the Rockies, and for good reason: trips ranging from half- to two-day, arranged by experienced river guides, and all within a short drive of Sacramento.

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The Forks Join

The three forks merge into Folsom Reservoir. The main stem of the American River, sometimes referred to as the Lower American, starts just below Folsom Dam and flows through Sacramento's eastern suburbs before joining the Sacramento River just west of the city center. The American River Parkway borders much of the stretch, providing recreational trails and access.

Photos Courtesty of Hotshots Imaging

Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater Excitement

Whitewater Excitement

6580 Hwy 49, Lotus, CA 95651

Since 1978, Whitewater Excitement, Inc. has offered 5-star river rafting adventure on the American River. Family-operated and family-friendly with trips for kids as young as 4. Experience the difference. www.whitewaterexcitement.com 800-750-2386

Rock-N-Water

Rock-N-Water

6580 Hwy 49, Lotus , CA 95651

Specializing in adventures for families and Church youth groups. Our Christian staff will take your rafting, rock climbing and hiking on 1 to 5 day full customizable adventures. www.rocknwater.com 800-738-0555

Coloma Shuttle

Coloma Shuttle

7308 Hwy 49 Ste F, Lotus, CA 95651

Our private boater shuttles are arranged so that you can eliminate the hassle of "the shuttle" out of your day and the carbon monoxide out of the environment. colomashuttle.com 530-303-2404

WET River Trips

WET River Trips

5461 Bassi Rd., Lotus, CA 95613

WET River Trips has been creating memorable whitewater rafting adventures on the American River since 1978. Our team of whitewater professionals know how to craft an unbeatable experience for the young and young at heart. Half, full and multi-day... www.raftwet.com 888-723-8938

All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting

All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting

1026 Lotus Rd, Lotus, CA 95651

We are a family-owned outfitter with over 60 years of experience professionally guiding whitewater rafting trips on 10 of California's best rivers. Ages 5 and up. 1/2 day to multi-day trips available! www.aorafting.com 800-247-2387

River Runners Inc.

River Runners Inc.

5461 Bassi Rd, Lotus, CA 95651

Enjoy the thrill of whitewater rafting without being rushed. We provide high quality, all-inclusive rafting adventures. Your meals are always fresh, and your guides are always fun and professional. www.riverrunnersusa.com 530-622-5110

ARTA River Trips

ARTA River Trips

3782 Winding Creek Ln, Lotus , CA 95651

Friendly guides, healthy food, family style non-profit since 1963. We run fantastic river trips on the best rivers in the West. 1-3 day trips in California. www.arta.org 209-962-7873

O.A.R.S. American River Rafting

O.A.R.S. American River Rafting

7330 River Park Dr, Lotus, CA 95651

First-class whitewater rafting on the South, Middle, and North Fork of the American River, Tuolumne, Merced, and North Fork of the Stanislaus since 1969. Book online and save! www.oars.com 855-541-4792

American Whitewater Expeditions

American Whitewater Expeditions

5981 New River Rd, Coloma, CA 95613

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. www.americanwhitewater.com 530-642-0804

American River Recreation, Inc. (rafting)

American River Recreation, Inc. (rafting)

6019 New River Rd, Coloma, CA 95613

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 3-day trips available. www.arrafting.com 530-622-6802

Raft California

Raft California

6500 CA-49, Lotus, CA 95651

California Whitewater Rafting OVER 12 RIVERS TO CHOOSE FROM — From 1/2 day trips to multi-day wilderness adventures we have a river rafting trip for you! We have California white water rafting trips perfect for all ages (+) as well as large... www.raftcalifornia.com (530) 626-7385

Junior Guide Raft Camp

Junior Guide Raft Camp

7310 Hwy 49, Lotus , CA 95651

An Educational non-profit summer camp providing youth aged 6-16 with river safety and rafting education. We are in our 10th year of teaching adventure, leadership, and teamwork. www.juniorguides.org 916-616-2317

Hotshot Imaging

Hotshot Imaging

7308 Hwy 49 Ste D, Lotus, CA 95651

California's largest whitewater rafting photography company taking over 1 million pictures per summer on the South & Middle Fork of the American River. All images are posted on our website each day for viewing/purchasing. www.hotshotimaging.com 530-621-0400

Action Whitewater Adventures

Action Whitewater Adventures

7421 Hwy 49, Lotus, CA 95651

From thrill to chill. Refreshing family fun from mild to wild. www.actionwhitewater.com 530-621-1315

Whitewater Connection

Whitewater Connection

7420 Hwy 49, Lotus , CA 95651

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! Family-operated and family-friendly with... www.whitewaterconnection.com 530-622-6446

Mother Lode River Center

6280 CA-49, Lotus, CA 95651

You get everything you want in California whitewater rafting with three forks of the American River to choose from, ranging from mild to wild! See for yourself why we have the most popular rafting trips in the state. www.malode.com (530) 626-4187

Kayaking

California Watersport Collective

California Watersport Collective

5461 Bassi Rd, Lotus, CA 95651

Kayak, paddleboard, and packraft the river! Have fun and learn skills with world-class instructors in a safe supportive environment. Beginner, advanced classes and trips available. Kids and adults welcome. www.cwwcollective.com 530-426-2820

The River Store

The River Store

1032 Lotus Rd, Lotus, CA 95651

Kayaking-Rafting-Camping. Sales, rentals & World Class Kayak Instruction. Clothing, snacks, drinks, sundries and outdoor accessories. Visitor's info, local experts, maps & books. Over 35 years in Lotus. theriverstore.com 530-626-3435

Current Adventures Kayak School

Current Adventures Kayak School

1032 Lotus Rd, Lotus, CA 95651

Over 25 years guiding in California and beyond! Professional, local instructors, small classes of 3:1 ratio. Whitewater and lake outings. Kids & Adults camps. currentadventures.com 530-333-9115

Coloma Shuttle

Coloma Shuttle

7308 Hwy 49 Ste F, Lotus, CA 95651

Our private boater shuttles are arranged so that you can eliminate the hassle of "the shuttle" out of your day and the carbon monoxide out of the environment. colomashuttle.com 530-303-2404

DeRiemer Adventure Kayaking

Lotus, CA

We provide the best kayak instruction and whitewater guiding in some truly extraordinary settings. It’s because we have found so much joy in being on the river that we want the same for you. Each day is infused with patience, encouragement,... 530-295-0830