1/2 Day Morning Discovery Run Rafting Trip

Prices Starting At

Monday – Thursday
Adults (14+) $79
Kids $149 Half Off! $39

Friday – Sunday
Adults (14+) $99
Kids $89


The South Fork American River Discovery Run is the perfect morning Class II rafting trip for families with younger kids ages 4+. It is a specially crafted rafting adventure designed for younger kids, older adults, and those seeking a gentler river experience.

The Discovery Run is a 2 hour float through the Lotus valley, where our youngest guests can discover the joy of being on the river and getting their first taste of whitewater rafting, as well as a touch of California Gold Rush history. There are several Class I and II rapids and riffles separated by calm pools, perfect for swimming in the summertime. This easy guided trip features mild Class I & II rapids, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable journey.

We meet at 10:30am in the parking lot and then head to the put in where pre-trip instruction is given. PFD’s and helmets are fitted, and paddles given out before launching. The group enjoys an easy 4 mile float with fun rapids including ‘Barking Dog’ before we arrive back to our camp.

Make a day of it – Plan a visit to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park just 2 miles away from our camp or take some easy local hikes. Or why not make it a camping and rafting vacation! Add camping at our private riverside campground with canvas tents and group event areas.

The South Fork American River Discovery Run has limited availability, especially on weekends and during peak holidays. For an afternoon Class II rafting trip, suitable for young children please check out our Lower Middle Fork American River Run.


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.


  • Most popular California River for first-time rafters as well as experienced paddlers, families with kids, groups of friends, and company team building outings.
  • Our beautiful riverside camp has a 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
  • Suitable for guests with disabilities
  • Great instructional rafting trip

River Map

Trip Itinerary

Guests meet at 10:30a where their Trip Leader will check them in, make sure each participant has a signed waiver on hand, answers any questions, and gives guests the gear they are going to need for the day. The gear provided: an appropriately sized PFD (personal flotation device) and a helmet (optional); may also include a wetsuit, a fleece layer, and a splash jacket depending on the weather.

Once all guests have been given their gear, guests will load into the bus/van for the 5 minute drive to the put-in location at Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. Once at the State Park guides will quickly unload the boats, paddles, and other rafting equipment, and begin getting it ready for the river. Guests will receive a short Safety Talk before being divided into boats and pushing away from shore.

The trip begins at the bottom of a long pool, which leads into our first look at whitewater, Gremlin Rapid (I+). Gremlin is followed by a long deep pool. At the bottom of the pool the river bends left and straight into a large boulder pile in the center of the river which forms Old Scary (II). Go right or left around the boulder island into some shallow water and Blue House Hole (I). We drift under the 49 Bridge through a section of shallow riffles and deeper calm sections to the large pool at Henningson-Lotus Park on river left. The pool ends with a pinch of shallow fast-moving water, followed by a slow stretch and into another go right or left Class I rapid. A section of shallow, slow moving, water is followed by a left turn into the deep pond at Camp Lotus.


At the end of the Camp Lotus pond you’ll begin to hear the rumbling of Barking Dog (II). This is a super fun standing wave rapid that if hit in the middle is sure to douse the whole front half of the raft. You are likely to see kayakers, paddle boarders and even surfers waiting to take advantage of the sport that this one rapid has to offer.

After Barking Dog, and the small riffle that follows the rest of the journey is a mellow float past the Dave Moore Nature Area on the right to the Tributary Camp take-out.

Extend the experience by planning a visit to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, conveniently located just 2 miles from our camp. Alternatively, explore nearby easy hiking trails.

For an immersive getaway, consider turning it into a camping and rafting vacation! Enhance your stay with camping at our private riverside campground, featuring canvas tents and group event areas.

Ages – 4+ at normal water levels (between 1250 and 3000 cfs)

Above 3000 cfs the water is pushing into the vegetation along the sides of the river creating strainer hazards and moving quickly enough that the trip would be an hour or less of on water time. As such we generally do not recommend the Discovery Run at higher water levels.

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.

Rafting shuttle services and fees included. For more information on trip shuttles click here.

What Does Tributary Provide

Included with Rafting

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