With clear water and steep, challenging drops the "North Fork" is the quintessential Class IV+ California run. In addition to fun whitewater this is a remarkably beautiful gorge with beautiful flowers in the spring.

The North Fork of the American River

The North Fork of the American River

Most paddlers do the jam packed 5 miles from Iowa Hill Bridge to Yankee Jims Road but you can also continue downstream to enjoy more beautiful scenery and fun Class II+ rapids. At flows above 2000 cfs this river gets considerably more continuous and more difficult. Please be careful at higher flows.

Trip Highlights

Mile 0: Put-in below the Iowa Hill Bridge on Colfax-Foresthill Road.

Mile 0.4: Slaughter's Sluice (IV) is a good warm-up rapid that will give you a sense of the rapids downstream.

Mile 0.8: Chamberlain Falls (IV+) is an eight foot drop through a narrow slot. There is a dangerous recirculating eddy at the bottom.

Mile 2.4: Achilles' Heel (IV) can be a tricky rapid at some flows. Just below here is Bogus Thunder, one of the more difficult rapids on the North Fork.

Mile 2.7: Bogus Thunder (IV+) is a challenging zig zag through some rocks. Scout from the right.

Bogus Thunder on the North Fork of the American River

Bogus Thunder on the North Fork of the American River | Photo by Neil Nikirk

Mile 3.3: Staircase (IV) is a tough rapid with three distinct drops.

Mile 5: River access just below Shirttail Creek. You can take out here or continue downstream for some fun Class II+.

Mile 9: Take-out at Ponderosa Way Bridge.

Written by
Zach Collier

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