(800) 229-8735
Facebook How is the weather? What are the river flow conditions?
South Fork American River 1 day Trip Lower Gorge Run

Trip Details

SF 1 day Lower Gorge
Trip Length: 1 Day
Difficulty: Class 3
Minimum Age: 8 yrs

- Make Reservation Now!
- View Available Dates!

Price: $163 - $193

Government river use fee
not included.

plus $8 per person county, state and federal river access fees.

Includes one night camping, breakfast and a deli-style lunch

Trip Departures: Every weekend, April thru October and every Monday thru Friday, June thru August.

Arrive after 5 PM the evening before your trip.

Click here to download Weekend SF 1-day Lower Gorge trip details (pdf)





Our 1 day trips include camping the evening before your trip and breakfast the next morning. After breakfast and a brief orientation, we will begin our 13 mile journey down the Lower Gorge of the South Fork American. Our Lower Gorge trip begins at our camp 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 meeting place around 4:30 PM.



EarthTrek trips include camping the night before your trip and breakfast the following morning.

1 day South Fork Lower Gorge trips are scheduled to depart every Thursday and Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.       
 Saturday or Sunday
$185 adult
$185 youth
$175 adult 
$165 youth

All trips are subject to a $8 per person federal, state and county river access fee

If you wish to book a Lower Gorge raft trip without camping or breakfast (meeting time 10:30 AM) please call our river partners at O.A.R.S. at toll free 855-499-3518 and they will assist you in making a reservation.










9:30 AM weekends or 10:30 AM midweek: Arrival time at our camp and check-in.

  • Meet in our amphitheater 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 private lunch where we serve deli-style make-your-own sandwiches consisting of ham, turkey, roast beef, cheese, lettuce, red onions, tomatoes and a selection of breads. Complimenting your sandwich may include sliced pickles, olives, garlic mushrooms, pepperchini's as well as a selection of chips and cookies. To quench your thirst we have ice cold lemonade, ice tea and water. Note: Depending on the timing of midweek water releases, we may serve lunch in camp prior to launching the rafts. 
  • 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 and the conclusion of the trip at about 3:30-4:30 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.

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 7 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 pregnant, extremely overweight, or have back or heart problems, we do not suggest a raft trip. 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 7 and older are welcome on the Class III South Fork American but for families with kids under 7 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.

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.


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
NOTE: Camping is not included on one day trips but you have the option to add camping to your trip for $10 per person per night.


Camping & Lodging



Our 1 day trips do not include camping or any extra meals, except lunch.

You may add camping either before or after your 1 day raft trip, or both nights. Our camping fee is $10 per person per night. If you add camping please 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. 

Please note: We do not allow individuals to cook their own meals so please do not bring camp stoves for food preperation. If available we can add breakfast and/or dinner to your package. There are several restaurants within walking distance of our camp.
     Breakfast: $7 per person
     Dinner: $16 per person

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 campground with RV hook-ups check out our links page for a list of campgrounds in our area as well as motels and bed & breakfast inns.

Bring your own tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad or rent what you need from EarthTrek. See below. Camp gear rentals are in addition to our campground fee of $10/person per night.

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

CLICK HERE for more information
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.

 for more information

Our standard dome tents are available in 2 sizes, 2-person and 4-person. 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 information


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.


Add to an existing reservation:

Check Availability:


Need Assistance

Call 800-229-8735
or Contact Us
Delux Cabin Tents Weddings Company Picnics Links