½ Day Morning Chili Bar River Rafting

Prices Starting At

Monday – Thursday
Adults (14+) $99
Kids $99 Half Off! $49

Friday – Sunday
Adults (14+) $119
Kids $109


The morning Chili Bar white water rafting trip on the South Fork American River is a favorite for first timers and return rafters. This trip is a 3/3.5 hour (on water) whitewater tour through some of the more technical Class III rapids on the river. The first half is characterized by a series of Class II and III rapids separated by calm pools. The second half of the trip consists of a float through the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park and the Lotus Valley to our Riverside Camp (the Discovery Run). 

This sought-after expedition is not just a thrill-seeker’s delight; it’s a journey through history, intertwining the rush of the river with the echoes of the California Gold Rush. Join us for an epic morning filled with heart-pounding rapids, natural wonders, and a touch of the gold-laden legacy that shaped California’s history.

This is a popular trip for folks traveling to/from the Lake Tahoe & Reno areas.


Water flows in the South Fork American River result from releases from hydroelectric facilities located upstream. Such water releases are not subject to the control of El Dorado County or rafting companies operating under Permits from the County of El Dorado.


  • Best California River for first-time rafters and experienced rafters looking for a taste of Class III action
  • Great for families with kids, groups of friends, and company team-building outings
  • A wonderful day of rafting with lunch along the riverbank
  • Our luxury riverside camp has a nice camp store, which provides last-minute items that you may have forgotten including t-shirts, shorts and other sportswear
  • Experienced guides: skilled and ready to provide a safe and fun outdoor adventure
  • A great day of excitement, fun and relaxation in a beautiful river canyon

River Map

Trip Itinerary

Guests meet at 8a where their Trip Leader will check them in. Once all guests have arrived they will be given their personal gear for the day and board the transportation vehicle. The drive to the put-in at the Nugget Campground in Kelsey, CA takes approximately 25 mins.

Once there the TL will give a Safety Talk to the group, before dividing everyone up and assigning them to a guide. Your guide will make sure that each guest has a paddle and check to see that your PFD and helmet fit properly; after which they will give a short paddle talk and ask guests to help carry the raft to the water.

After a couple of minutes of paddle practice in the eddy at put-in your guide will point the boat downstream and your river adventure will begin with a trip under the Chili Bar Bridge and through Chili Bar Hole (I+). A few bends and a short stretch of calm-ish water later leads into the longest, most technical, rapid on the river Meat Grinder (III+). Most of the rapid is shallow and requires moving the raft around partially exposed (or barely covered) rocks, before finally dropping through a series of holes and waves. Meat Grinder is followed almost immediately by Racehorse Bend (III) a sweeping left turn where the water is pushed against a sloping rock wall and Maya (II/III) a shallow riffle with a small wave in normal flows or a monster boat eating hole above 3500 cfs. After Maya you’ll ease into Rock Garden (II), a shallow stretch of choose your own adventure rock dodging. A short pool later you’ll find the entrance to African Queen (II) a fast dip and turn to move across the river and down a rolling washboard to finish with a big splashy hole.

Next you’ll float through the first long pool of the trip surrounded by steep sloping hills (early spring trips may be lucky enough to be treated to a carpet of California Poppy blooms). About a mile downstream you’ll pass the partially exposed Frog Rock (looks like a frog’s eyes just sticking above the waterline) and enter Triple Threat (III). The rapid is made up of 3 features back to back, most significant of which is a nearly river wide hole at the entrance of the rapid called First Threat (III). Second and Third Threat (both II) are the wave train  and a wave train at the end. Shortly after Triple Threat is a narrow channel of roiling water cut into the rocks and, after swirling and bumping your way through, a very small pool leads to the little riffle known as Seventh Inning Stretch. This marks the beginning of the Quiet Zone, a residential area covering the next 7 miles of river where excessive loud noises are prohibited. 


The next stretch of river is a series of slow moving pools separated by small unnamed rapids until we reach the infamous Trouble Maker (III+) about a mile downstream. In the last pool above the entrance to the rapid your guide will briefly go over what to expect and make sure everyone is ready for what is considered the biggest, most difficult rapid on the river. You’ll make your way around a series of boulder islands before entering the rapid itself. The meat of the rapid consists of a top hole, a hard right turn and a drop to either side of a large submerged (or mostly submerged) rock. There are photographers posted on the right side of the river to take pictures of your boat as you come through, which you can view after your trip using a link on our website.

Trouble Maker signals the end of the Class III portion of the trip. Just downstream of the rapid you’ll enter the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, drift under the one lane Coloma Bridge (fyi – during the flood of 1996 the water was high enough that it covered its road bed), and glimpse the reproduction of Sutter’s Mill on river right (there’s also a less impressive, but much more visible, rock monument that marks the actual location of the mill close by the water). Just past the mill is the put-in location for the Discovery Run, and a detailed description of this section of the trip can be found there. The float through the Coloma-Lotus Valley from Trouble Maker to Tributary’s Riverside Camp takes approximately an hour and a half.


Traveling to the

Where to Meet

Tributary Outpost & Private Campground on the American River

6500 CA-49
Lotus, CA 95651

Where To Stay


  • Tributary Campground – Lotus, CA
    Many of our multi-day American River trips include camping at our private campground, located directly on the South Fork of the American River. Extend your trip and camp with us at our private riverside campground before or after your rafting adventure.
  • Consumnes River Ranch – Plymouth, CA
    One of our preferred partners! This is an amazing private property on the Consumnes River with tent camping, glamping cabins, stone barn for weddings and more.


Hotel Options

What Should I Bring

  • Required Items
    • Re-usable 20oz or more water bottle
    • Shoes (no flip flops)
  • Suggested Items
    • Sunglasses (with a strap)
    • Baseball hat
  • Do Not Bring
    • Cell Phones
    • Wallets
    • Expensive jewelry


Click here for a full detailed list of what to wear and what to bring.

What Does Tributary Provide

Included with Rafting

  • PFD (Personal floatation device / aka life jacket)
  • Paddle
  • Helmet
  • Professional raft guide for each raft