Loma Prieta Paddlers (LPP) is a whitewater kayaking club, based in the South Bay and beyond.  If you are new to kayaking, new to the area or are just  looking for a group of fellow paddlers; check us out.

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South Fork of The American River

The South Fork of the American has something for just about everybody.  It runs most of the year, has stretches that are excellent for your first time on moving water, great play holes, good access and nice class III water perfect for that first class III experience.  In the spring when the water is big it takes another jump up in difficulty and excitement.

Each month, from June-September, we schedule a weekend trip on the south fork that we call a Camp Lotus weekend.  These are Saturday and Sunday trips on the South Fork of the American.  We reserve several camp sites at Camp Lotus, right on the American river.  Each day we run a Class II trip on the Coloma to Greenwood (C-to-G) stretch.  For Class III paddlers we run the Gorge on Saturday and Chili Bar on Sunday.   Occasionally club members with schedule additional trips on the days before or after a Camp Lotus weekend.

These are always fun, relaxed weekends.  The C-to-G stretch is great for novices, Chili Bar and the Gorge are great step-up to Class III runs with fun play spots and logistics are easy.  You can choose to paddle only one or both days.  We have campground reservations Friday and Saturday nights so many people prefer to arrive Friday night, others get up early and join the group on Saturday morning.  As with all of our trips please let the individual trip leaders know your plans before the weekend starts.  

Camping at Camp Lotus is not wilderness camping.  It is a pretty, grassy and tree shaded campground on the banks of the American River, but it is also home to several rafting companies.  Things can get a bit crowded at noisy at times.  People bring tents, sleep in the their cars or because this is California just throw down a tarp and sleeping bag and sleep under the stars.  

We'll sometimes organize a pot luck dinner for Saturday night, other times we'll go out. The margarita blender has been known to come out as well.  There is usually a breakfast crowd that heads over to the Coloma Club for pancakes and eggs and another group that prefers breakfast at the campground.

Other than the Camp Lotus weekends there are often lots of impromptu one and two day trips scheduled on the South Fork; especially after the spring snow melt has finished and there are fewer river choices.

Quick Facts
Chili Bar to Trouble Maker: Class III 5.2 miles
Coloma to Lotus: Class II 3 miles
Coloma to Greenwood: Class II+ 5.5  miles
Coloma to 49 Bridge:  Class II 1.4 miles
Greenwood to Salmon Falls Bridge: Class III 9 miles
800-2000 CFS= Normal flows, usually associated with summer and fall. Plenty of Class II & III whitewater.

2000-4500 CFS= Medium - High flows. Challenging Class III+ whitewater. Big waves and swift moving water. Cold snow melt water during winter and spring months

Above 4500 CFS= High flows. Challenging Class III+ whitewater. Fast moving water, with powerful waves, long rapids, and sticky holes. Water is extremely cold resulting in a risk of hypothermia during long swims. Some rapids become class IV above 6000  cfs.

Above 8000 CFS= WARNING! Flows above 8,000 cfs demand the utmost respect and caution.
Approximately 170 miles from San Jose to Camp Lotus.  Usually about a tad under 3 hours with no traffic.
California Creekin' River Description
LPP Safety Management Plan
American River Website  This site has lots of good river description details, maps and information.
El Dorado Country This site has links to river rapid and emergency egress maps

Three day forecast


Real-time flow information


Driving Directions

Take your favorite route into Sacramento.  This is either usually:

680 to 580 east
205 east past Tracy to 5 north
Through Stockton and into Sacramento
Follow the signs to Hwy 50, South Lake Tahoe


680 over the Benica bridge ($3 toll)
80 east into Sacramento
Follow the signs to Hwy 50, South Lake Tahoe

Click on the map for a larger version

Put-in & Take-out

There are many different put-in's and take-out's along the South Fork.  

Chili BarThe Chile Bar put-in is just downstream of the Chili Bar dam.  It's the start of the Chili Bar Class III section.  This put-in is a private put-in and requires put-in and parking fees.The Chili Bar store has snacks and basic paddling gear.  There is an outhouse at the upper parking lot and the lower lot near the river.

If you're coming from Hwy 50 take the Hwy 49 North exit in Placerville.  Just on the end of town there is a Mexican restaurant on the right at the intersection of Hwy 193.  Take a right on 193.

If you're coming from Coloma or Lotus take Hwy 49 south towards Placerville.  Just as you approach Placerville you'll see Hwy 193 on the left hand side.  Take a left onto 193

Once on 193 you'll immediately start dropping, twisting and turning down into the South Fork Canyon.  When you' reach the bottom you'll cross over the South Fork.  Take the first driveway on the left which is Chili Bar.  Stop near the store at the top of the driveway and go into the store and pay put-in and parking fees.  After paying your fee drive down the hill and park in their gravel lot. 

It takes about 20 minutes to drive between Chili Bar and Coloma.

American River Resort The American River Resort is on river left at Troublemaker rapid.  It is rarely used as  put-in, but sometimes used as a take-out for the Chile Bar run.

To get there head south on Hwy 49 from Marshel.  Just past the state park the road makes a sharp bend to the right.  If you go straight on a small paved road you'll come to the resort.  Park in the large gravel lot on the right before the main gate.  At the resort office pay for parking and take-out fees before you leave your car.

Coloma - Marshel Gold Discovery State Park This is the most common put-in for the Coloma to Greenwood class II stretch of river.  It's is a put-in only and requires parking and put-in fees.  There are flush toilets and water available.

Hwy 49 Bridge For paddlers wishing to save on parking or other fees the Hwy 49 bridge is a common put-in for the Gorge, the lower half of the Class II section or as a take-out for the Chili Bar run.

The take-out is on river left under the bridge.  Parking is on river left on the downstream side.  There is additional parking around the corner on Lotus road.

Hennesy Country Park A pleasant park on the left bank of the river.  It has plenty of parking, flush toilets, running water and picnic tables.  A parking and put-in fee is required.

Camp Lotus The most popular campground on the South Fork and the place for our Camp Lotus weekends.  It's the home of several rafting companies and can have some boisterous crowds on Friday and Saturday night.  Lotus has a showers, flush toilets, water and a small camp store.  Lotus requires put-in, take-out and parking fees.

Lotus is often used is a put-in for the Gorge and take-out at the halfway point for the class II stretch before the slightly more difficult water downstream to Greenwood.  

Greenwood A new parking area and bathrooms make this a much nicer take-out for the Coloma to Greenwood run and as a put-in for the Gorge.  To readh Greenwood head north on Hwy 49 from the 49 bridge.  In less than five minutes you'll cross a small bridge (easy to miss) and you'll see a gate and driveway on your left with a small sign.  The parking lot is just 50 yards down this road.  There are no fees required to use this area.

Salmon Falls This is the take-out for the Gorge.  There are actually two different parking lots.  The first one is the smaller of the two and has pit toilets, but no water. It's on river right just before the Salmon Falls Bridge.  The second is a quarter mile past the bridge on river left.

It's about a 30 minute drive between Coloma and the Salmon Falls Bridge.

Click on the topo map for a larger version

Where to Eat

If you're not in the mood to cook dinner at the campground there are a few choices for dining out.  

There's the Coloma Club - home of huge pancakes for breakfast.  Marcos.