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
the American river. Each day we run a Class II trip on the
to Greenwood (C-to-G) stretch. For Class III paddlers we run
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
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
easy. You can choose to paddle only one or both
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
pretty, grassy and tree shaded campground on the banks of the American
River, but it is also home to several rafting companies.
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,
times we'll go out. The margarita
blender has been known to come out as well. There
is usually a breakfast crowd that
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.
|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
CFS= Normal flows, usually
associated with summer and fall. Plenty of Class II & III
2000-4500 CFS= Medium - High
flows. Challenging Class III+ whitewater. Big waves
and swift moving water. Cold snow melt water during winter and spring
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.
Creekin' River Description
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
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
There are many different put-in's and take-out's along the South Fork.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
There's the Coloma Club - home of huge pancakes for breakfast. Marcos.