Middle Fork of the American

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California, USA

Middle Fork of the American Rafting Guidebook

Unique in the Western Sierra rivers, the Middle Fork of the American River is the only one where you can check “rafting through a tunnel” off of your bucket list. Also, a wonderful combination of technical whitewater, big whitewater, and beautiful scenery make this stretch of river one of the most exciting you can find. Scattered throughout this section are also artifacts of this river’s mining history, as well as artifacts related to the history with the native population.

Tributary Whitewater is the leading outfitter on the Middle Fork of the American. They offer full-day and two-day trips on the Middle Fork.

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Indian Bar Rafting Access to Greenwood Bridge Take-Out

The Middle Fork of the American River has one main Put-In at Indian Bar, and several take-outs downstream, however the most common is from Indian Bar to Greenwood Bridge.

Mile 0 – Indian Bar Rafting Access:

River Right. The Put-In for this section is just below Oxbow Reservoir.

Mile 0.03 – Alarm Clock/Good Morning:

Class III. Good Morning rapid appears quickly after the put-in and can give you trouble if you’re not on your toes. Take the inside corner of the left bend for the best line.

Mile 0.2 – North Fork of Middle Fork Confluence:

The North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River tumbles in from river right.

Mile 0.41 – Junkyard:

Class II. Read-and-run rapid.

Mile 0.85 – Carl’s Crash/Guide Slammer:

Class III. There is a big wave at the top of this rapid which is runnable at most flows. Take the tongue to the left of the wave for a clean line.

Mile 1.04 – Organized Chaos/Santa’s Mustache:

Class III. Center right entrance and then read and run.

Mile 1.33 – Last Chance:

Class III. Run Last Chance down the middle. Watch out for holes on the left side. Be ready to eddy out immediately after on river right to scout Tunnel Chute Rapid.

Mile 1.89 – Soul Train/Berry Picker:

Class II. Enter far right and deal with the branches. This is better than getting stuck on the rocks on river left – especially at lower water.

Mile 2.17 – Old Gold Tunnel:

Just after Soul Train rapid, you’ll see an old gold mining tunnel from the 1800s.

Mile 2.24 – Cathedral:

Class IIII. The river splits into multiple channels. Work left here to avoid getting pushed into the river right wall.

Mile 2.84 – Cache Rock Camp:

River Left. This is a smaller camp located on river left just above a small rapid.

Mile 3.02 – Bus Crash:

Class III. Sharp left bend in the river with all current pushing into a flip wall on river right. Work left to avoid flipping off the wall.

Mile 3.1 – Bus Crash Jump Rock:

This jump rock is located just below Bus Crash rapid on river right.

Mile 3.32 – Three Queens:

Class III. Read-and-run rapid with a large wave on river left.

Mile 3.96 – Kanaka Falls:

Class IV. Enter boulder-ridden Kanaka Falls rapid left of center and stay left throughout the rapid. There is a hole to watch out for in the center of the channel. Be especially wary of two boulders awaiting at the bottom of this rapid on river right.

Mile 4.11 – Surf Ledge Hole:

Just below Kanaka Falls on river left is a fun surf ledge. Below this point is mostly Class II-III whitewater until arriving to Chunder Rapid, which is a Class IV just about Ruck-a-Chucky Falls.

Mile 5.8 – Dardanelles Creek:

Dardanelles Creek enters the Middle Fork of the American River from river right.

Mile 7.6 – Camp 1:

River Right. There is a composting toilet at this nice camp.

Mile 9.95 – Upper Ford’s Bar:

River Right. Similar to the last camp, Upper Ford’s Bar also has a composting toilet.

Mile 10.16 – Otter Creek:

Otter Creek enters the Middle Fork of the American River from river left.

Mile 10.34 – Lower Ford’s Bar:

River Left. Lower Ford’s Bar is located just downstream of Otter Creek. Look for the long cobble bar.

Mile 10.73 – Camp 3:

River Right. This is the final camp on the river that includes a composting toilet.

Mile 13.32 – Canyon Creek:

Canyon Creek enters the Middle Fork of the American River from river left.

Mile 13.47 – Chunder:

Class IV. Chunder is all about the entrance. There are numerous boulders just above water level to watch out for. As you come to the crux of this rapid, thread the needle through 2 large boulders center right, then work left to stay away from large boulder on river right. Below this rapid is another sleeper rock to be avoided in the center channel.

Mile 13.62 – Cleavage:

Class IV. The main features of the rapid are a large hole on river right and a pourover on river left. Find the line in between these features (left of center).

Mile 13.69 – Parallel Parking:

Class IV. Parallel Parking is a technical rapid. There is a narrow chute just to the left of a large boulder in the center of the current. Work hard left to avoid flipping off this rock. After passing this rock, there is another wave just downstream.

Mile 13.85 – Tequila Slammer:

Class III. Avoid the fin rock that’s just right of center.

Mile 14.15 – Texas Chainsaw Mama:

Class III. Texas Chansaw Mama is another technical rapid, with the main focus being to avoid the house-sized boulders in the center of the channel. After passing the first of these boulders, work hard left to avoid the second boulder, and enter the left channel. This rapid gets its name after the undercut rock on river left.

Mile 14.48 – Pop Quiz:

Class III. Somewhat similar to Texas Chainsaw Mama, large boulders in the center of the channel force you left, but there’s a lot room. This is the last rapid in this section.

Mile 15.16 – Greenwood Bridge / Drivers Flat Take-Out:

This is the most commonly used take-out for this section. There are a few scattered Class IIs & IIIs downstream if you want some warm-down rapids.

Mile 21.97 – Mammoth Bar Take Out:

River Right. Very important to take out here to avoid Murderer’s Bar Rapid (Class V) downstream. This is a mandatory portage rapid, so it’s easiest just to take out at Mammoth Bar.