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

  • 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
  • Adventure Connection
    Thanks to the rain gods! From mild to wild we offer 1/2, 1 and 2-day adventures for kids 7 to 75! Call today and be on the river this afternoon! (800) 556-6060
  • 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 40 years of Safety, Leadership and Stewardship on the American River. 530-626-4187
  • 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
  • Mariah Wilderness Expeditions
    Mariah Wilderness Expeditions
    Description-Offering over 33 years of safe and exciting whitewater rafting trips on the American River. 800-556-6060
  • 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, Bill Thrills. 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 shuttle fee $10.00 per boater picks up you and your gear. 530-303-2404
  • 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
  • Earthtrek Expeditions American River Rafting
    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 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 ad young as 4. Experience the difference. 800-750-2386
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

    A local family operated company specializing in professional guided trips on the American and Yuba rivers. Book your ‘best day ever’ experience with us.. otherwise we’ll splash you. (: 530-277-3433
  • Sierra Nevada Photos

    We capture all your exciting whitewater memories. Come visit our family operated studio with friendly knowledgeable staff. If it happened on the river WE GOT IT!  We also shoot portraits, events and weddings.  835 Lotus Rd @ Corner of HWY 49

  • Rise Up River Trips
    Rise Up River Trips is dedicated to providing people with the Spirit of Discovery, Love for Adventure, and Unforgettable Experiences!  Please join us on the American River. (800) 323-RAFT
  • Rubicon Whitewater Adventures - 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.