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.

Whitewater Rafting

  • All Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting
    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
  • OARS American River Rafting
    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! 855-541-4792
  • WET River Trips
    Operating since 1978, choose WET for personalized, quality, customizable, half-day to multi-day trips. We have the most experienced guides with an average of 10+ years boating. Small company, Big Thrills. 10% Discount code “ELDO” 888 RAFT-WET
  • American River Recreation logo
    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 3-day trips available. 800-333-7238, 530-622-6802
  • Hotshot Imaging
    Hotshot Imaging, Inc.
    California’s largest whitewater rafting photographer taking over 1 million pictures per summer on the South & Middle Forks of the American River. Located at 7308 Hwy 49 Ste A, next to the bridge. 530-621-0400   530-621-0400
  • Raft California
    Offering whitewater adventures on over 13 rivers including the forks of the American River. From Mild to Wild, ages 4+! 1/2 day,  1 day and overnights trips available March- September. 530-626-7385
  • Coloma Shuttle
    The Coloma Shuttle is a private boater shuttle service on the South Fork of the American River funded by a grant from the El Dorado County Air Quality Management District. Our low-cost membership fee $10.00 per boater picks up you and your gear. 530-303-2404
  • Sierra Whitewater Rafting
    Family-operated whitewater rafting company running thrilling half and full-day adventure trips for all ages on all three forks of the American River. Fun-filled and safety-oriented. Best value. 530-368-9027
  • The River Store
    The River Store
    Kayaking-Rafting-Camping. Sales, rentals & World Class Kayak Instruction. Clothing, snacks, drinks, sundries and outdoor accessories. Visitor’s info, local experts, maps & books. Over 32 years in Lotus! 530-626-3435
  • 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
  • Earthtrek Expeditions American River Rafting
    EarthTrek Expeditions
    Mild to wild whitewater rafting trips on the American River since 1977. Beautiful private river front camp with nice landscaping, game area and large deluxe tent cabins. Ask about our group discounts. 800-229-8735
  • Whitewater Excitement
    Since 1978, Whitewater Excitement, Inc. has offered 5-star river rafting adventure on the American River. Family operated and family friendly with trip for kids as young as 4. Experience the difference. 800-750-2386
  • River Runners
    Relax and enjoy the thrill of whitewater rafting without being rushed. We are a boutique company that provides high quality customer service, amazing meals and expert guides for your adventure. (530) 622 5110
  • Rock-N-Water-Christian Camps
    Specializing in adventures for families and Church youth groups. Our Christian staff will take you rafting, rock climbing and hiking on 1 to 5 day fully customizable adventures. 800-738-0555 800-738-0555
  • ARTA River Trips
    ARTA River Trips
    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. 209-962-7873
  • 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
  • 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! Family operated and family friendly with trips for kids as young as 4. 800-336-7238
  • Mother Lode River Center
    Mother Lode River Trips
    Enjoy rafting combined with our Challenger Rope Course at the premier west coast, multi-sport River Center. Celebrating over 45+ years of Safety, Leadership, and Stewardship on the American River. 530-626-4187
  • Beyond Limits whitewater rafting
    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
  • H2O Adventures

    Let our 1st class company show you an experience of a lifetime. 530-277-3433 530-277-3433
  • Junior Guides Raft Camp
    An Educational non-profit summer camp providing youth aged 6-16 with river safety and rafting education. 916-616-2317 916-626-2317
  • Sierra Nevada Photos

    We take pictures of all whitewater fun, if it happened on the river we have it. 530-401-0088


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.