Middle Fork American River

Class 4 River Rafting

ABOUT THEMiddle Fork American River

  • Experience the renowned “Tunnel Chute,” a man-made marvel from the Gold Rush Era with a 90-foot rock tunnel and a 6-foot drop.
  • Navigate numerous exhilarating Class 3-4 rapids like Last Chance, Submarine Hole, and Kanaka over the initial 6 miles.
  • Experience the Class 4 Ruck-a-Chucky rapids, including the formidable Ruck-A-Chucky Falls (a mandatory portage) and Lower Ruck-a-Chucky (Cleavage) with a thrilling “surf” spot.
  • Navigate a 2-mile gorge filled with numerous Class 3-4 rapids like Parallel Parking and Catapult (101 Airborne).

The Middle Fork American River is suitable for the active, fit and adventurous first time rafters, or a great choice for those seeking a step-up from the easier trips like the South Fork American River.

On the Middle Fork American River you will splash thru numerous Class 4 rapids including Tunnel Chute, Kanaka, Bus Crash, Cleavage and more! This trip is action packed right after put in.

Middle Fork American River rafting trips are fed all summer long by snow melt captured in upstream reservoirs. The headwaters are in the Granite Chief Wilderness on the back side Palisades Ski Resort. The river travels through steep, rugged and forested canyons within the Tahoe National Forest and into the Auburn State Recreation Area.

 

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Let's GoRafting

POPULAR
Dates: June
- August
Starting at

$339

POPULAR
Dates: June
- September
Starting at

$149

POPULAR
Dates: June
- September
Starting at

$389

FETCHING TRIPS

WHY THEMiddle Fork American River

Rafting trips on the Middle Fork American River are reliable all summer long! The Class 4 whitewater run is 18 miles long and offered as a 1 day or 2 day trip. The 2 day Middle Fork American overnight wilderness camp outs are some of our guide favorites. Camping at our outpost on the South Fork American River is available to all rafting guests. Overnight trips already include camping, and 1 day guests are welcome to stay as well. We have open camping areas for you to bring your own tent or glamping canvas tents for rent.

As a designated Wild and Scenic River, the Middle Fork is cherished for its outstanding natural attributes. The river cuts through diverse landscapes, featuring lush forests, rugged canyons, and pristine waters. Whitewater enthusiasts are drawn to its thrilling Class III to Class IV rapids, with the Tunnel Chute being a highlight for those seeking an adrenaline-pumping adventure. Beyond the excitement of rafting, the Middle Fork provides a haven for anglers, boasting healthy populations of rainbow and brown trout. Hiking trails offer stunning views of the river and its surroundings, attracting outdoor enthusiasts eager to explore the region’s beauty.

For non-swimmers and timid first timers we recommend easier Class 2 Lower Middle Fork  American River (for ages 4+) or 3 rafting trips on the South Fork American River (ages 7+).

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History & Wildlife

The Middle Fork of the American River weaves through California’s Sierra Nevada, carrying with it a storied history that echoes the state’s transformative Gold Rush era. In the mid-19th century, prospectors flocked to the banks of the Middle Fork, drawn by the allure of gold that glittered in its waters. The river became a vital artery for transportation as pioneers sought their fortunes and established settlements along its course. The remnants of this bygone era can still be found in the form of historic mining sites and artifacts, serving as tangible reminders of the relentless pursuit of riches that shaped the region. Today, efforts to preserve and interpret this history contribute to the cultural richness of the Middle Fork, adding layers of significance to its scenic landscapes.

The Middle Fork is one of the deepest river canyons in California. Once scheduled to be under hundreds of feet of water as part of the Auburn Dam project, folks just like you discovered it’s treasures and forced the powers-that-be both here in California and back in D.C. to recognize it’s true worth as an important part of our environmental, social, economic and spiritual health.

The Middle Fork’s natural beauty and diverse ecosystems also make it a haven for wildlife. The river is home to a variety of fish species, including trout and salmon, which undertake incredible migrations for spawning. The riparian zones along the riverbanks provide crucial habitat for numerous bird species, while the surrounding forests offer shelter to mammals like deer and black bears. Conservation initiatives and protected areas along the Middle Fork ensure the continued health of these ecosystems, emphasizing the importance of maintaining the delicate balance between human activity and the preservation of the river’s rich wildlife. The Middle Fork of the American River thus stands not only as a historical testament but also as a vibrant and dynamic ecosystem that adds ecological diversity to the tapestry of California’s natural heritage.

Though the growth of our foothill communities is unavoidable, there is obviously a demand for these recreational areas to remain unspoiled for future generations. We continue to work with organizations like Friends of the River and Protect American River Canyons so we can all continue to enjoy its beauty.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THEMiddle Fork American River

What can I expect on a middle fork rafting trip?

On the Middle Fork American River you will encounter many Class 4 rapids including Tunnel Chute, Kanaka, Bus Crash, Cleavage and more! This trip is action packed right after put in.

Our 1 day trip is all day and includes lunch. We meet you in Auburn at the Crooked Lane Brewing Company in the morning and will take you to/from the river.

The 2 day overnight on this river is a favorite of our river guides during the summer. They appreciate escaping into this secluded and pristine road-less area. This trip allows us to show you the more unique canyons, streams and waterfalls as we explore in the rafts and on foot.

Middle Fork American River rafting trips are fed all summer long by snow melt captured in upstream reservoirs. The headwaters are in the Granite Chief Wilderness on the back side of the Squaw Valley. The river travels through steep, rugged and forested canyons within the Tahoe National Forest and into the Auburn State Recreation Area.

The Auburn Dam project threatened the Middle Fork American River canyon for many years. This prevented it from receiving its deserved wild & scenic status. Though the growth of our foothill communities is unavoidable, there is obviously a demand for these recreational areas to remain unspoiled for future generations. We continue to work with organizations like Friends of the River and Protect American River Canyons so we can all continue to enjoy its beauty.

The Middle Fork is one of the deepest river canyons in California. Once scheduled to be under hundreds of feet of water as part of the Auburn Dam project, folks just like you discovered it’s treasures and forced the powers-that-be both here in California and back in D.C. to recognize it’s true worth as an important part of our environmental, social, economic and spiritual health. Check out this gem – it’s perhaps the most bang for your buck (in so many ways) that you can get anywhere in California!

For non-swimmers and timid first timers we recommend easier Class 2 Lower Middle Fork American River (for ages 4+) or 3 rafting trips on the South Fork American River (ages 7+).

What class rapids is the American River?

The rapids on the Upper Middle Fork American River section from Oxbow Powerhouse to Ruck a Chucky Campground are rated class 2-4+. There is a Class 5 that is a mandatory portage for rafting guests.

For easier rafting trips the South Fork American River is rated Class 2-3+ and suitable for kids ages7+ and non-swimmers.

There are other Class 2 sections on the South Fork American and Lower Middle Fork American rivers OK for kids as young as 4 years old.

How long does it take to raft the American River?

The Middle Fork American River trips are 1 to 2 days. A full day is 8 hours and overnights include 2 nights of camping and meals with 1 night of camping in the wild.

What makes the Middle Fork of The American River Wild and Scenic?

The Middle Fork is part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system, highlighting its outstanding natural and cultural values. This designation underscores the river’s commitment to conservation and sustainable use, ensuring that visitors can enjoy its beauty while contributing to the preservation of its ecosystems.

Where to fish on the Middle Fork of The American River?

For fishing on the Middle Fork of the American River, consider focusing on stretches near the Oxbow Reservoir, Chili Bar Reservoir, and the section downstream from the confluence of the North Fork. These areas are known for supporting healthy populations of trout, including rainbow and brown trout, providing opportunities for anglers seeking a diverse and rewarding fishing experience.

What are some fun facts about the Middle Fork of The American River?

This river is close to Lake Tahoe, Sacramento and San Francisco.

The iconic Tunnel Chute, a very thrilling and challenging rapid, resides here. This rapid was heavily used during the Gold Rush for mining operations.

Middle Fork River courses through Tahoe National Forest, where ponderosa pines reside. These pines are estimated to be over 500 years old.

What is the Middle Fork of The American River famous for?

The Middle Fork of the American River is famous for its historical significance during the California Gold Rush.

It is also famous for its reputation of being a designated Wild and Scenic River.

What are the biggest rapids on the Middle Fork of The American River?

The Tunnel Chute is one of the most challenging and biggest rapids on the Middle Fork of the American River, offering a thrilling Class IV whitewater experience for rafters.

I can’t swim. Can I still go rafting?

Due to the nature of the rafting courses, if a participant is an inexperienced swimmer, it is not recommended that they go rafting on this course. This course requires participants to be comfortable with intense physical activity.

ACKNOWLEDGING Ancestral Lands

The Middle Fork of the American River holds profound significance in Native American history as it traverses the ancestral lands of indigenous peoples, notably the the Nisenan, the Miwok, the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce), Pohogues (Shoshone-Bannock), and Agaidika (Lemhi-Shoshone) tribes.

Acknowledging the Indigenous communities whose lands we visit is a crucial step in understanding our shared history and the ongoing challenges faced by these populations today. For more insight, visit our Territory Acknowledgement page. We encourage you to learn about the people whose land we’re privileged to explore by following the links above.

Our Territory Acknowledgement is an evolving project. If you find missing information or acknowledgments, please share it with us. Together, we can ensure accuracy, inclusivity, and respect. Thank you.