Middle Fork of the American River

The Middle Fork of the American River is chock-full of thrilling whitewater, fascinating history, stunning scenery, and incredible wildlife.

Although it was once a well-inhabited canyon with two mining camps and over 10,000 people, today the Middle Fork American River Canyon is a place of solitude and pristine beauty.

Whitewater Rafting on the Middle Fork


Recreation on the Middle Fork of the American brings hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to the canyon. Whitewater rafting is prominent during the summer months with one, two, and three-day river rafting trips launching daily.

The famous and exhilarating Tunnel Chute rapid brings rafters back year after year, although there are other rapids worth noting. Immediately downstream from put-in is a class III rapid known as “Alarm Clock,” or “Good Morning Coffee.” Last Chance, Kanaka, Cleavage, Parallel Parking, and Catapult, plus numerous class III rapids make the Middle Fork an ideal intermediate whitewater rafting trip.

Although one-day trips are more common, a night spent in the Middle Fork canyon is truly a delightful experience. Relaxing in camp, gorging on delicious food, and socializing are sometimes as memorable as the rapids.

Private Boating & Logistics


The Middle Fork American also makes for a beautiful one or two-day kayaking run with fun play spots and great rapids, although because of the difficulty of Tunnel Chute rapid and the portage at Ruck-a-Chucky, many kayakers prefer either the North Fork or the South Fork.

The logistics of private boating and kayaking on the Middle Fork of the American are more difficult than on other rivers in the area. Cars cannot be left at the put-in, so a shuttle driver must be arranged. Commercial rafting outfitters take care of the shuttle and other potential hassles, providing transportation, food, equipment, and experienced guides. If you decide to sign up for a commercial trip, see the Rafting pages for more information on what to expect and how to choose an outfitter.

Other Middle Fork Recreation


Whitewater rafting is only one form of recreation on the Middle Fork American. The area also boasts over 100 miles of trails used for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, and river access for fishing and dredging. The Western States Trail, the path which settlers took to cross the Sierras and enter the Middle Fork canyon during the Gold Rush, also runs along the Middle Fork canyon. Each year nationally recognized equestrian and running endurance competitions are held on the Western States Trail.

History & Natural History of the Middle Fork Canyon


When the miners headed into the Middle Fork American River canyon in search of gold, they came en masse. Today, over 1,500 remnants of the Gold Rush and Native American history can be found along the Middle Fork. Tunnel Chute itself is also a huge piece of gold rush history. In the late 1800’s, miners realized that gold likely settled in a slow-moving, horseshoe bend in the river. They blasted a tunnel through the mountain, diverted the river through a chute, and (eureka!), one of the biggest gold discoveries in the California foothills occurred. Many of the other relics, such as buggy wagons and powerhouses are also very captivating.

One of the greatest qualities of the Middle Fork is the abundance of wildlife. Fishermen delight at the large rainbow trout that thrive in the river. Bald and golden eagles, river otters, Townsend big-eared bats, long-horn beetles, frogs, butterflies, and deer are just a few of the wildlife species sometimes spotted on a Middle Fork river rafting trip.

Escape to the Middle Fork


The Middle Fork of the American River offers something for everyone. The abundant wildlife, beautiful river canyon, interesting Native American and gold rush history, recreational opportunities, and unforgettable rapids for whitewater rafting make the Middle Fork American River the perfect escape from the fast-paced modern world.

Thanks to All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting for providing this article.

Kayaking

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

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

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

Whitewater Rafting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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