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Middle Fork American River - 1 Day Trip

Trip Details

MF 1 Day
Trip Length: 1 Day
Difficulty: Class 4
Minimum Age: 14 yrs

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Price: $193 - $213

Government river use fee
not included.

Plus $8 per person state and federal river access fees.

Click here to down load trip details (pdf) 

Includes camping the night before your trip, breakfast and lunch.

Trips available daily from May through September.



A deep forested canyon, crystal clear water and some of the wildest runnable rapids in California. All of this and more can be found on the Middle Fork American River. While some of the river is a relaxing but spirited Class II float, there are numerous Class III and IV rapids for whitewater excitement and thrills.

The highlight of every Middle Fork American River trip is the famous Tunnel Chute, a narrow Class IV+ cataract created by 19th century gold miners to divert the river and dry up the ancient bed to make the gold easier to find. Immediately following the Chute is a 90' tunnel that we leisurely float through. After the Tunnel Chute, rapid excitement continues, including the always challenging Kanaka Falls. The Middle Fork American River then mellows until we reach Ruck-A-Chucky Falls, a necessary portage. Our trip down the beautiful Middle Fork American River comes to a dramatic conclusion with another series of thundering Class III-IV drops.



1 day Middle Fork American River trips are scheduled to depart daily from May through September.
Trip includes one night camping and breakfast     

Weekends Sat or Sun Midweek Mon-Fri 
$215 adult and youth

$199 adult and youth

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


  • 7:30 AM: Meet at the EarthTrek Camp, check in, visit our camp store.
  • Board the van(s) for the 75 minute drive upriver to Ralston Afterbay Put-in on the Middle Fork American.
  • 8:30 AM: Optional meeting at Driver's Flat pull-out on Foresthill Road (see map in 'location').  
  • Arrive at Ralston Afterbay put-in, unload rafts and have a brief safety briefing.
  • Begin our raft trip down the Middle Fork. Tunnel Chute Rapid will be run  in the first 30 minutes followed by more Class III and IV rapids including Kanaka Falls. The river calms as we stop for lunch.
  • Run Chunder and then arrive at Ruck-A-Chucky where where we beach the rafts and you walk around as our guides manuever the rafts over the falls. After Ruck-A-Chucky we run a series of Class III-IV drops.
  • 3:30 PM: Approximate arrival time at our take-out at the Old Greenwood Bridge site. A cold drink awaits you upon arrival as we load the rafts back on the van and depart.
  • 4:30-5 PM: Approximate return time  to the EarthTrek Camp and the conclusion of our 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
Plus alternate Meeting Place for Middle Fork Trips (see below)

 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. See below for alternate meeting place.

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.

Alternate Meeting Place for 1 day Middle Fork American trips

Click here for larger image









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. For experienced rafters looking for more white water action we recommend the Middle Fork and North Fork of the American River.

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 most Class III and IV rivers, self-bailing paddle rafts are used 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 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 7 and older are welcome on the Class III South Fork American but for families with kids unde 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 be 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 preparation. 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



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