The "North Fork" as it is known in California is the quintessential Class IV+ run. It's a classic due to its clear water and steep, challenging drops. The scenery is top notch and the spring wildflowers are unmatched. There are are three distinct sections and the Chamberlain Falls section is by far the most popular.

This is the classic and exciting North Fork of the American run. It's best known for challenging rapids with good sized drops that require precise maneuvering. The most exciting rapids are Chamberlain Falls, Bogus Thunder, and Staircase. This is the best one-day run in California because it has everything: clear water, great rapids, a spectacular canyon, and the occasional jaw-dropping wildflower display.

The exciting part of the run is from the Iowa Hill Bridge to the Yankee Jim Road, which is five miles long and has a gradient of 44 feet per mile. After doing this run, there are three possible take-outs.

There is a difficult take-out and limited parking at Yankee Jim Road. You can continue down four more miles of fun Class III rapids to Ponderosa Way and a better take-out. Or, to make this trip a full day of fun, you can go three miles past Ponderosa Way and take out at Upper Clementine Reservoir. This option is only available with commercial outfitters.

Trip Highlights

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

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 2.7: 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 III.

Mile 9: Take-out at Ponderosa Way Bridge.

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