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South Fork American River - 2 Day Camp Trip

Trip Details

SF 2-day Camp Trip
Trip Length: 2 Days
Difficulty: Class 3
Minimum Age: 8 yrs

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Price: $299 - $379

Government river use fee
not included.

  • plus $16 per person county, state and federal river access fees.

Rafting Trip Departures: Saturdays during June through September and Thursdays during June through August. You may arrive the night before your rafting trip for your first nights of camping. 

Trip Includes: 2 nights camping (cabin tents & river tents are an additional cost), 5 delicious meals (2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and dinner), and 2 days of rafting, the Lower Gorge Run the first day followed by the Chili Bar Run the second day. 




EarthTrek has partnered with OARS, one of the most experienced outfitters in the country. When you book a trip with EarthTrek, you will be camping and enjoying your meals at the EarthTrek camp, but the on-river portion of your trip will be with OARS.

Our 2 day trip includes two breakfasts, two lunches, and one dinner as well as a campground use fee for 2 nights at our private river front camp. Cabin tents and river tents can be added at an additional cost. You may bring your own tent at no additional cost.  

Our trip begins with breakfast followed by a a brief trip orientation and safety talk. Afterwards we will begin our 13 mile journey down the Lower Gorge of the South Fork American which begins as we float a swift but mellow section of the river allowing everyone to perfect their paddling skills in preparation for the challenging American River Gorge. After a delicious 'deli-style lunch we enter the Gorge where in quick succession we will bounce, yell, get wet and laugh through Fowler’s Rock, Satan’s Cesspool, Haystack Canyon, Bouncing Rock and Hospital Bar Rapids. Our journey ends on the warm, still waters of Folsom Lake where an awaiting bus or van shuttles you back to the EarthTrek Camp where you can relax in our camp and enjoy a delicious dinner prepared by our staff. 

The next morning after breakfast we will shuttle you up to Chili Bar where we begin our thrilling 8 mile run. The action begins immediately with Meatgrinder, followed by numerous rapids including Racehorse Bend, Rock Garden, Triple Threat and climaxed by a mad dash through famed Troublemaker Rapid. Our trip ends as we pull ashore back at our camp where your guides prepare a tasty barbecue lunch. The trip concludes at about 2:30-3 PM.




2 day South Fork Camping trips are scheduled to depart every Thursday and Saturday from Memorial Day Weekend to Labor Day Weekend.
Weekend Sat-Sun Midweek Mon-Thur 
$379 adult
$379 youth
$329 adult 
$299 youth

All trips are subject to a $16 per person federal, state and county river access fee




The following schedule details a typical 2 day trip on the South Fork American. Times are approximate and are subject to change due to variations in water releases and water flows.

Evening before your rafting trip
Arrive anytime after 4 PM the day before your trip. Set up your tent on the grass lawn. If you rented a tent from EarthTrek, check our Information Center on the back wall of our Camp Store for details about your rental. Enjoy your evening by the South Fork American River.


  • 8 AM: Breakfast is served. Our first morning breakfast normally consists of pancakes with fresh sliced strawberries and bananas, sausage, scrambled eggs, cereal, yogurt, orange juice, hot chocolate and coffee.
  • 10:30 AM: Meet in our amphitheater (or over at the OARS campground) for trip orientation, go over safety issues and meet the guides. Your guide for the trip will be assigned at this time.
  •  We will issue you a safety jacket and paddle prior to boarding your raft at our put-in area adjacent to our lawn area. If we have more than 7 rafts launching we will need to split our group into two or more groups divided by approximately 15 minutes (as required by our permit). Your patience while we launch our groups is greatly appreciated.
  • The first 3 miles of our rafting trip is a leisurely float with a few mild rapids through what is designated as a quiet zone where we ask you to refrain from making any loud noise with no water fighting. After running Highway Rapid we leave the quiet zone.
  • Stop for lunch at our lunch site. Here we serve deli-style make-your-own sandwiches.
  • Re-board your raft and prepare to enter the Lower Gorge as our first big rapid, Fowler's Rock is just a short distance down the river. After Fowler's Rock the rapids come in quick succession with Upper Haystack Canyon, followed by Satan's Cesspool where our professional photographer is stationed to shoot an exciting picture of you running the rapid. Rapid excitement continues as we run Son of Satan, Lower Haystack Canyon, Bouncing Rock, Hospital Bar, Recovery Room and Surprise. After running the last rapid we hit the calm waters of Folsom Lake where a motorized tow boat will pull our raft to our take-out.
  • When we reach Salmon Falls Take-out we will need to carry our rafts and gear up to our awaiting equipment van and trailer. The distance and the climb fluctuates with the level of Folsom Lake. An ice cold soda or bottled water is waiting for you. Board our bus or van for the 15 mile trip back to our camp, returning at 3:30-5 PM.
  • Please Note: The times stated above are for trips with normal water flows. During times of higher water flows the river moves faster resulting in a quicker river trip.
  • Return time to our camp. Relax, take a shower, and enjoy life by the river.
  • 6:30-7 PM: Dinner time
  • 10 PM: Quiet time in our camp. Please be considerate of others. who wish to sleep in our lower camp area. If you wish to stay up later and make a little noise (please note the word "little") we ask that you utilize our upper camp area where the lights will stay lit.


  • 8 AM: Breakfast is served. This morning's breakfast consists of cowboy potatoes, make-your-own breakfast burritos with a variety of fixings, fruit, muffins, cereal, yogurt, orange juice, hot chocolate and coffee. 
  • 9:45 AM: Board the bus or van for the 20-30 minute drive upriver to the Nugget at Chili Bar.
  • Begin our raft trip down the Chili Bar section of the South Fork American River. The first major rapid we will run is Meatgrinder, the longest rapid on the river, followed by Race Horse Bend, Rock Garden and Triple Threat. As we enter the Gold Rush community of Coloma, we run the famous Troublemaker Rapid, where the photographers shoot your picture. We leisurely float past Sutter's Mill where gold was discovered in 1848.
  • Conclusion of the rafting back at the EarthTrek Camp.
  • Our barbecue lunch is served. Lunch will consist of hamburgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers on request, as well as watermelon, cookies and chips, plus cold drinks. 
  • 2-3 PM: Our trip concludes as we say goodbye and hope you will return soon.


How to get to the American River

We offer you a selection of ways to get to the American River. The easiest and most popular means of transportation is to drive your own car. Driving directions are detailed below.

Southwest Airlines offers convenient service to Sacramento from many California and Western cities. Rental cars are available at the airport or if you have a group of 10 or more check with EarthTrek about a van or bus shuttle.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS to the American River

 Click here for Google Maps directions

Our South Fork, Middle Fork and North Fork American River trips all meet at the EARTHTREK EXPEDITIONS CAMP in Lotus on the South Fork American. Following are driving directions to our camp.

From Southern California (approximately 7 hours driving time): Take I-5 north to Sacramento and follow the directions below from Sacramento.

From San Francisco Bay Area (2- 2 1/2 hours driving time): Take I-80 east to Sacramento and follow the directions below from Sacramento.

From Redding and the Sacramento Airport: Take I-5 south to Hwy 50 east (freeway sign on I-5 directs you to Fresno) and follow the directions below from Sacramento.

From Sacramento (1 hour driving time): Take Hwy 50 east towards Placerville/Lake Tahoe. Drive about 34 miles to Ponderosa Road (Exit 37)and exit the freeway. At the freeway offramp stop light turn left and cross over the freeway. At the second stop light, just past the freeway, turn right on North Shingle Road. Continue about 11.5 miles (the road becomes Lotus Road at mile 5) until the road deadends at Hwy 49. Turn left on Hwy 49 and cross over the American River Bridge (as you cross over the bridge you'll see our camp and grass lawn on the left). Turn left at the SECOND DRIVE into River Park Village and follow the road down to our gravel parking lot which is behind River Park Village.

From South Lake Tahoe: (1 1/2 hours driving time): Take Hwy 50 west over Echo Summit to Placerville. Turn right (north) on Hwy 49 (Spring Street) and drive about 9 miles thru the historic gold discovery site in Coloma and cross over the American River Bridge. Past the bridge turn left at the SECOND DRIVE into River Park Village and follow the road down to our gravel parking lot.

From Reno or North Lake Tahoe (2-2 1/2 hours driving time): Take I-80 west to Auburn and then take Hwy 49 south. You will cross over the North Fork of the American and then climb to the community of Cool. From Cool,6 miles. Continue on Hwy 49 about 10 more miles to River Park Village, which will be on your right (do not cross over the bridge). Turn right at Yossum's Pizza and follow the road down to our gravel parking lot.

When you arrive at our camp please check in at our camp store or follow the directions posted on our bulletin board in camp. Here you will find information about any camping gear you may have rented and where it is located.

If you are arriving late please observe our quiet hours from 10 PM to 7 AM. If you have an RV you are welcome to park in our lot and sleep in your vehicle but there are no hook ups and please no generators during our quiet hours from 10 PM to 7 AM.

Times and distances are approximate and will vary with traffic, road and weather conditions. Check CalTrans for current road conditions.
  To EarthTrek from  San Diego Anaheim Bakersfield Fresno San Jose San Francisco Redding So Lake Tahoe Reno
  Mileage 548 miles 450 miles 318 miles 212 miles 162 miles 130 miles 205 miles 70 miles 115 miles
  Driving Time 9.25 hrs 7.75 hrs 5.5 hrs 3.75 hrs 3 hrs 1.75 hrs 3.5 hrs 1.75 hrs 2.25 hrs


Questions....and Answers

The South Fork American River is an excellent white water rafting trip for first time rafters but we also recommend it for rafters of all abilities because of its exciting and fun rapids, reliable summer water flows, comfortable camping facilities and economical prices.

Excellent rafting is available from April to October on the South Fork American thanks to reliable releases from a several upstream mountain reservoirs. For thrill seekers looking for high water excitement we suggest booking your trip in May to early June when the melting snow is at its peak. Summer months of June, July and August are the most popular times to raft, especially on weekends. If you can schedule your trip during the midweek you will have the advantage of enjoying greater solitude on the river at a lower cost.

The difficulty of a river is classified on a scale of I to VI with I being very easy and VI unrunnable. We have classified the rivers based on normal moderate water flows but during times of high water river, difficulty levels can be increased. We recommend a Class III river for beginning rafters and a Class IV river for experienced rafters looking for more action. Class V river trips are reserved for expert, highly experienced rafters.

On the South Fork American we use self-bailing paddle rafts for maximum fun and excitement. Each of the 4-8 passengers has a paddle to help power and maneuver the raft while the guide steers and directs the crew. On high water trips or for passengers with special needs, an oar raft where the guide rows the boat, may be used.

Generally, just about anyone in reasonable health and fitness can go rafting. The minimum age for a child on the Class III South Fork American river (under normal water flows) is 8 years old and a minimum weight of 55 pounds. During times of high water flows we may need to increase the age minimum to 12 or 14, depending on the water level conditions. There is no maximum age although anyone over 60 should be in good health and perhaps consult with your physician if you have any concerns. If you are extremely overweight or have back or heart problems, we do not suggest a raft trip. Due to safety considerations, we are unable to take pregnant women rafting. Swimming skills are not a requirement since your safety jacket will keep you afloat but it is recommended that you not have a fear of the water.

Children 8 and older are welcome on the Class III South Fork American but for families with kids under 8 we offer our non-rafter program where one parent pays full fare for a two day trip and the other parent pays $55 for camping and all meals (except day 1 lunch) and this includes no extra charge for the kids. This program allows one parent to raft the first day and then they can switch and the other parent rafts the second day. This program also applies if you have a non-rafter that just wants to camp and have meals with you, but not raft.

You will be sent a checklist of what to bring when you make a reservation or you can view a checklist on our web site. Basically you will need to bring a sleeping bag, a foam pad or air mattress, and your personal clothing and toiletries. A wet suit is essential during spring trips when the water is cold and the weather is more unpredictable. For participants of EarthTrek operated trips, we can provide low cost rental wet suits, tents, sleeping bags and foam sleeping pads.

A river trip is the perfect activity for a group and we offer discounts to groups starting at only six people. See our web page titled GROUPS for more details. Special rates are also available for youth groups such as Boy Scouts or YMCA.

Although we are animal lovers, we are unable to accommodate pets including dogs here at our campground. There is a good quality dog kennel closeby and information may be found on their website at dog-woodsresort com.

If you have more questions, simply E-mail us or call EarthTrek Expeditions at (800) 229-8735 and we will be happy to answer them.

What To Bring

On all EarthTrek Expeditions trips all of your gear will remain at our South Fork Camp so you do not have any restrictions on what you can bring. The following list is suggested items. We do not suggest that you bring valuables but if you must we do offer a safe to lock your items during the day or you can lock them in your car and leave your keys in our safe. On the river most people prefer to wear a swimsuit or shorts, tennis shoes without socks and a T-shirt (a T-shirt is good to keep the sun off but a wet cotton T-shirt may give you a chill). You will get wet so dress accordingly.

While on the river

  • PROPER FOOT WEAR that protects your feet. Tennis shoes or wet suit booties are best Teva™ style sandals that securely strap on your feet are OK but they do not give you the best foot protection. Flip-flops or bare feet are NOT allowed on the river.
  • CAP or VISOR with chin strap.
  • SUNGLASSES with secure headstrap such as Croakies™.
  • CHANGE OF CLOTHES for your drive home. Also bring a plastic trash bag for wet shoes and clothes.

If cool or inclement weather is a possibility, we recommend the following items

Items for Camping Overnight

* Please note that we do not allow personal cooking or use of camp stoves and similiar devices in camp. You may bring precooked food and ice chests. 

  • SLEEPING BAG compact fiberfill best
  • ENSOLITE FOAM PAD or AIR MATTRESS Comfortable foam pads or cots available for rent
  • PLASTIC GROUND SHEET if sleeping outdoors
  • FLASHLIGHT with extra batteries
  • SUNGLASSES with secure headstrap (Croakies™)
  • TENNIS SHOES 2 pair, 1 for river and dry pair for camp. Wet suit booties for rafting and sandals for camp can be substituted. 
  • PLASTIC TRASH BAG for wet clothes
  • CAMP CLOTHES, T-shirts, long pants, light jacket underwear, etc.

Optional Items

  • TENT, small backpack style best. Available for rent
  • FISHING GEAR license required
  • MUSICAL INSTRUMENT No loud radios or tape players please.


On our two day rafting trips, we include two nights camping. You are allowed to arrive at 6 PM or later on the night before your raft trip. If you arrive prior to 6 PM your camping space or rental tent may not ba available as we need the period prior to 6 PM to clean tents and/or water our lawn. 

As an option, when available, if you would like to arrive the morning of your trip we can substitute your second night of camping for the night after you complete your 2 day trip. Additional nights camping is available for $10/ night per person.

At our camp, EarthTrek will provide all meals during your stay except for dinner. We do not allow individuals to cook their own meals so please do not bring camp stoves for food preparation. There are several restaurants within walking distance of our camp.

Our campground is not equipped for RVs. You are allowed to park your RV in our parking lot and stay in it at night but PLEASE do not run your generator from 10 PM to 7 AM. If you would like to stay at a lodge, bed & beakfast or a campground with RV hook-ups check out our links page for a list of lodging and campgrounds in our area.

Bring your own tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad or rent what you need from EarthTrek. See below.


Rent one of our deluxe cabin tents to make your whitewater rafting trip with EarthTrek an even better experience.

CLICK HERE for more info
CLICK HERE for a pdf map of our cabin tents


These unique tents are built on a deck at the rivers edge giving you an unforgettable view of the American River.

CLICK HERE for more info



Our standard dome tents are available in 2 sizes, and they are set up when you arrive. Our thick comfortable foam sleeping pads will provide you a good nights sleep. Our sleeping bags come with a freshly launderd cotton liner.

CLICK HERE for more info

Dear EarthTrek Staff,

Just a note to say we had a wondeful experience on our whitewater rafting adventure with you on the South Fork American River. We had never been before and it was great! The entire staff was so accommodating, pleasant and reassuring. Everyone was as helpful as possible. We'll definitely come back and recommend EarthTrek to anyone who wants to have a great trip. We can't thank you enough.

Art & Nancy C.


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