When is the best time to go rafting on the American River?

Rafting on the American river can be a year round experience.  With hydro-dam controlled releases that are guaranteed for year round recreation, you will find rafters and especially kayakers on the river in the dead of winter every weekend. This winter (2015), the South Fork of the American river only releases raftable and kayakable flows on Saturday until April 1, then we get Saturday, Sunday, and Monday flows.  After Memorial Day, we will get flows every day except Tuesday and Wednesday, that is unless we get lots more snow and rain.  If this was an above average snow year, we would be getting flows everyday all spring long.

On the Middle Fork of the American river, the hydro-dam operators are not releasing raftable flows right now (again, 2015)American river rafting at it's best. until Memorial Day weekend, due to saving the water for summer hydro-electric needs.  After Memorial Day weekend, we are projected to get 7 day a week releases for whitewater rafting and kayaking with normal summertime flows (which means it will be awesome, even in a drought year).

Springtime is also the only time that the North Fork of the American, the class IV+ cousin to the South Fork, is available.  It does not have any hydro-dams on it and runs just on the snowmelt.  This year (2015) we definitely need a lot more snow to be able to raft this awesome river this spring. But we are still remaining positive that the snow will come.

After saying all of the above, I will answer the actual question:  when is the best time to raft the American River?  Let’s talk in a normal snow and rain year, where there is quite a bit of snow in the mountains for spring runoff.  The spring time usually has more water in the rivers due to the snow melting and the hydro-dam operators cannot contain it all.  Higher water for rafting the South Fork, for example means faster white water and bigger rapids, good for those seeking a wilder class 3+ ride than the normal class 3 summertime flows, but this can also mean that kids younger than 12 cannot raft, due to these higher flows.  With the higher flows comes colder water, so we provide wet suits and rafting wind breakers for our guest’s safety and comfort.  Springtime rafting also means less people on the river (a plus sometimes), and wild flowers in the canyons making a very unique experience.

Sometimes, if the runoff is quite a bit, we have to wait to raft the Middle Fork of the American.  When the water gets high on the Middle Fork, a few of the rapids (Tunnel Chute and the class 6 portage at Ruck-a-Chucky Falls) get dangerous and most American river rafting companies wait until the snowmelt has eased a bit. Summertime is the primetime to raft the Middle Fork, all the way through September.

rafting the american river Most rafters like a sunny warm weather day, warmer river water (even  though it never gets warm, but does get semi-comfortable), and the  summertime vacation schedule for coming up and rafting the American  River.  The time period from Memorial Day to Labor Day are the busiest  for most river rafting companies on the American River.  However, rafting  trips are offered all the way into October, as long as the weather holds.  Fall trips on the American River can also be a very different trip than the  summer.  The crowds have gone and you can almost have the river to  yourself!

A quick summary:  Springtime rafting brings higher water levels giving rafters more whitewater and bigger rapids, sometimes a class 4+ North Fork season, colder water (wet suits provide a good buffer), less people rafting the river, wild flowers in the canyons, and weather that is usually nice but can also turn cool and rain.  Rafting in the rain is a very neat experience as long as you are wearing the proper river gear.

Rafting in the summer is by far the most popular time of year for American River rafting.  The weather is usually hot, the water in the river has settled down from the springtime and there is plenty of it due to the hydro-electric guaranteed releases for recreation, families with younger kids can raft, school’s out and its vacation time, and most likely your favorite river rafting guide is back on the river from college, teaching, or other real life job!

Anytime is a great time to be on the river – come up and get yours!

flash close up for wweblog answers I hope that this helps, as always if you have questions about this  information, or have other  questions about river trips, please feel free to E-Mail me, I am always  here to help no matter  what or where your river adventure is taking you.

Hope to see you on the river this year,

Flash (over 30 years of river rafting experience around the world and back)

 

What is served for dinner?

Most rafting companies provide dinner with a two day trip or can be added on to a one day trip on either the South Fork or Middle Fork of the American River.  There is nothing like working hard all day paddling on the river and coming back to camp to a delicious BBQ dinner prepared by the staff.  Here at Whitewater Excitement we typically start you off around 6:00 pm with some delicious appetizers, like chips and salsa, 7 layer dip, cheese and crackers and a little smoked salmon to go with your soda, beer or local wines.  It is followed up with a great BBQ dinner that typically includes chicken, steak orIMG_0947 salmon, big green or kale salad, corn on the cob, baked potato, veggie pasta and some hot home made dinner rolls from Chef Judy. What’s dinner without a great home made dessert, again from Chef Judy,  like fresh fruit cobbler, pinnapple upside downcake, or if she is feeling spunky her fresh fruit home made ice cream, all topped with a special sauce! Guaranteed you will not go hungry, cause we alway accept double dippers!!

We also have many vegatarian options that are fresh and tasty.

flash close up for wweblog answers I hope that this helps, as always if you have questions about this  information, or have other  questions about river trips, please feel free to E-Mail me, I am always  here to help no matter  what or where your river adventure is taking you.

Hope to see you on the river this year,

Flash (over 30 years of river rafting experience around the world and back)

What is served for lunch?

lunchMost rafting trips on the American River include a great lunch on the river!  During and after an exciting day paddling on the river there is nothing better than a delicious spread of mouth watering food! Lunch is typically served between 11:30 am – 12:30 pm on the river and laid out by your guide, then you can prepare your own delicious deli sandwich any way you like.  A typical lunch includes several types of bread, lunch meats, cheeses, a variety of fresh vegetables, relishes and fruit, salad, chips, cookies, lemonade and water.  Plenty of fixings for any vegetarians in the group!

flash close up for wweblog answers I hope that this helps, as always if you have questions about this  information, or have other  questions about river trips, please feel free to E-Mail me, I am always  here to help no matter  what or where your river adventure is taking you.

Hope to see you on the river this year,

Flash (over 30 years of river rafting experience around the world and back)

Are there photos taken of the rapids and where can we get the photos?

Professional photographers are taking photos on most whitewater rafting rivers everywhere in the world. Depending on where you are rafting, their photos shops are located very close to the rafting companies meeting/camp areas. Some photographers actually come down to the company meeting/camp areas and show the rafting guests their photos right after their trips. On 2 or 3 day trips, some American river rafting companies have a slide show after dinner showing your day of rafting through the rapids.

On the American river, Hotshot Imaging is the photographer of choice for most rafting companies operating on either theriver rafting on the american river South Fork of the American river or the Middle Fork of the American river. They pick certain rapids that are, well, the most exciting rapids on the river, to take their photos. For an average raft that goes through one of these chosen rapids, Hotshot Imaging take about 25 shots of each raft. However, if there is added excitement at the rapid, they will take lots more (like people falling out or a raft that flips over). This ensures that everyone in the raft will get a shot of themselves in action.

The rapids on the South Fork that they take photos of are: Troublemaker on the Upper or Chili Bar section, and both Satan’s Cesspool and Hospital Bar rapids on the Lower or Gorge Section of the river. For the Middle Fork of the American river, they shoot the famous “Tunnel Chute” rapid that is one of the most exciting rapids in California. On certain days, they also shoot at a rapid called Chunder on the Middle Fork, another super fun rapid toward the end of the day.

The photos taken on the South Fork are only available at Hotshot Images’ Coloma shop, centrally located right in town, you can’t miss it! They have lots of computer screens for rafting guests to look up their photos. All you do is jump on a computer, look up the company that you were with, locate the rapids in your section of river, and find your raft. Easy as that.
rafting on the Middle Fork of the American RiverFor the Middle Fork, you can also go to their shop, however, you can also go online to hotshotimaging.com and look up your photos once you get home.

Prices and packages have a wide range. You can select to buy one 5×7 (or larger) or purchase a CD with all the photos from all the rapids of the day. For a 5×7 you can expect to pay about $15 for each photo. For a CD with photos of rapids, the prices range from $39-$79 depending on how many rapids you choose and how many rafts you would like on the CD. The folks at Hot Shot Imaging, are great to work with, they have the great angles at the most popular rapids, and their quality is outstanding.

When approaching one of the “photo” rapids, don’t for get to smile, and please make sure you are paddling hard, that way your rafting adventure photo will look awesome and you will have a lasting memory of your river rafting experience.

flash close up for wweblog answers I hope that this helps, as always if you have questions about this  information, or have other  questions about river trips, please feel free to E-Mail me, I am always  here to help no matter  what or where your river adventure is taking you.

Hope to see you on the river this year,

Flash (over 30 years of river rafting experience around the world and back)

I can’t swim – Can I still go rafting if I can’t swim?

Swimming ability is always recommed, but not required on rivers such as the South Fork of the American river (unless we are in a HIgh Water situation where the river level is quite a bit higher than normal).  The big question that folks need to askswimming on the american river themselves is:  are they afraid of being in the water?  The South Fork has fun class 3 type rapids, which are exciting and fun, but can be attempted by non-swimmers.

When you step up the level of difficulty in a whitewater rafting trip to anything above class 3, then swimming ability is required and most river rafting companies will not take non-swimmers on these types of trips.  We get asked a lot, especially by the group organizer:  our group has done the South Fork of the American and had fun, but we want to do a rafting trip that is class 4 or 5, but some of the participants cannot swim, can we still go.  The level of participation also needs to increase on harder rivers and rapids.  All participants will need to paddle together through the harder rapids inorder for the raft to safely negotiate them.  Well the answer, for the safety of the non-swimmer and everyone else on the trip, is unfortunatly no.  Most river outfitters will not have folks on class 4 or higher rivers or rapids, that cannot swim, it is just not safe.

Falling out in a clas 3 rapid can be a harrowing experience for folks that dont have much experience.  Falling out in a classrafting on the American river 4 or higher rapid (not that we have that many fall out) can be a real harrowing experience.  We all wear PFD’s (life jackets) that float you well in the river, but as you challenge higher and higher rivers and rapids, the ability to self-rescue (help yourself) becomes more and more important.

Our recommendation is to do a group trip with your entire group on the South Fork of the American, then after that, when you want a more challenging experience, just invite the members of your group that can swim, are very aventurous, and are up for the higher level of participation to go on the more challenging river.

flash close up for wweblog answers I hope that this helps, as always if you have questions about this  information, or have other  questions about river trips, please feel free to E-Mail me, I am always  here to help no matter  what or where your river adventure is to taking you.

Hope to see you on the river this year,

Flash (over 30 years of river rafting experience around the world and back)

Can I request a certain guide?

Absolutely!  If you have been on a previous rafting trip on the American River and would like to have the same guide for09-01-2014_SFA_HB_WWE_I00080007 your trip this season, mention it to the specialist making your reservation and every attempt will be made to accommodate your request.  Many river guides come back year after year to guide the American River, while some stay a season or two and move on to other rivers.

Most all of the guides that work on rafting trips, are great folks.  They love the river, the atmosphere, and most of all they love to share their love of the river with people.  I know, from personal experience, that having folks come back on a 2nd or 3rd rafting trip asking for me to be their guide again, makes me feel like I have been doing a great job and builds a personal relationship with them that lasts forever.

When you request a certain guide, and they are not available for some reason, go ahead and ask for help in selecting another guide.  However, most rafting companies will let you know that all their guides are great guides and people, and any one that you are assigned to will do a great job.  At WWE, we have a policy of not recommending certain guides unless our guests ask for them by name.  We let them know, as I have stated above, all our guides are very good on the river and will give them a great time.  We do select certain guides for certain trips.  Like our young rafters trips, we select folks that love to be around young kids, or our class 4 trips, only guides that are trained and certified to run these class 4 rivers can be scheduled.

flash close up for wweblog answers I hope that this helps, as always if you have questions about this  information, or have other  questions about river trips, please feel free to E-Mail me, I am always  here to help no matter  what or where your river adventure is to taking you.

Hope to see you on the river this year,

Flash (over 30 years of river rafting experience around the world and back)

What time should I arrive for my rafting trip?

Each rafting trip on the American River has it’s own specific time to arrive at the designated meeting place, which isClock specified in your trip information.  Make sure you give yourself enough time to get to your reserved destination. Even being a few minutes early is a good idea to allow for any last minute details (ie: completing paperwork, last minute use of bathrooms, applying sunscreen, etc…).  Trips are usually filled up with other guests and only wait a short amount of time for late arrivers.  Most outfitters have a no refund policy for rafters that have missed their trip time.

Please do not rely on your smartphone or gps for directions once you get off the main highways. In the Coloma-Lotus area only Verizon wireless service works and it is often spotty. Make sure that you have the directions in hand provided by the American River rafting company, it will save you some heart ache and $$.

flash close up for wweblog answers I hope that this helps, as always if you have questions about this  information, or have other  questions about river trips, please feel free to E-Mail me, I am always  here to help no matter  what or where your river adventure is to taking you.

Hope to see you on the river this year,

Flash (over 30 years of river rafting experience around the world and back)

Should I tip the guide?

We get asked this all the time by our guests on the American River.  Tipping your river guide is a nice way to show your appreciation that he or sheTips did an outstanding job guiding your raft down the river.  Sometimes, though, just being able to afford to go on your vacation is a lot, and we appreciate that.  Most guides rely on their tips to live by, a lot are college-age guys and gals trying to save for college . . . and every little bit helps.  Anything is an awesome way to show you had a great time, and there is not a hard and fast rule about how much to tip.  An average tip for a half day trip is $3-$5 a person, a one day trip is $5-$7 a person, and a two day trip is usually $10-$15 a person.  Again, these are just guidelines and you know your own situation, if you had a super great time then a little more is nice, and if you did not have that great of a time, then it should reflect in your tip (you should also let the management know about any problems that you encountered — they will usually take good care of you).

flash close up for wweblog answers I hope that this helps, as always if you have questions about this  information, or have other  questions about river trips, please feel free to E-Mail me, I am always  here to help no matter  what or where your river adventure is to taking you.

Hope to see you on the river this year,

Flash (over 30 years of river rafting experience around the world and back)

Where are you located?

We are located in the heart of gold country in Coloma, California right on the bank of the South Fork of the AmericanFront Cover Hi Res06-12-2011_SFA_SC_WWE_I00100024 River, which is one of the most popular river rafting locations in the nation.  The Coloma Valley is located approximately 50 miles east of Sacramento and 62 miles west of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California. Coloma is most noted for being the site where James W. Marshall found gold in the Sierra Nevada, at Sutter’s Mill on January 24, 1848, leading to the California Gold Rush.

flash close up for wweblog answers I hope that this helps, as always if you have questions about this  information, or have other  questions about river trips, please feel free to E-Mail me, I am always  here to help no matter  what or where your river adventure is to taking you.

Hope to see you on the river this year,

Flash (over 30 years of river rafting experience around the world and back)

What are the age and experience requirements to raft the American River?

Well, as long as you are between the ages of 4-94 and are in good shape, you are in good to go rafting.  Well, at least I hope that you are.  Really, though, river rafting trips on the American river vary in both age and experience level.

There are sections of the South Fork of the American river that are suitable for kids as young as 4 years of age.  See ourRafting on the American RIver   young rafter adventures.  These trips are usually half day trips, nothing too long, just  enough to give them a taste of whitewater rafting.  The rapids are mild, bouncy, and  will give everyone a little river splash.  There are times that everyone can take the  plunge and float in the river (everyone has a PFD (life jacket) on at all times)).  A great  introduction to river rafting for the kids not old enough for the class 3 rapids.

For the class 3 section of the South Fork of the American river, rafters need to be at  least 7 years old (you really don’t want to take kids any younger), and there really is  not an upper age limit.  We have had senior rafters that are in their 80’s and have had  a great time and have done really well.  It’s all about their physical condition and  adventure level. Rafting the South Fork of the American is a fun, exciting adventure  that has something for all ages and experience levels.  From half day trips to 2 day  trips, this is why the South Fork of the American river is one of the most popular  whitewater rivers in the United States. Now onto a step up in rafting level:  the Middle  Fork!

On the Middle Fork of the American, there are both age and experience level requirements.  The Middle Fork is a class 3 and 4 river, which means it has some big drops and rapids that are bigger and require more guest participation than the South Fork of the American.  This river needs to be attempted by only those who are over the age of 12 (some companiesRafting the Middle Fork of the American Riverrafting the Middle Fork of the American river  will take an 11 year old, but they need to have rafting experience, very good swimming ability, and above normal height).  Rafters on the Middle Fork also need to have whitewater rafting experience or be an adventurous first timer in good physical condition.Swimming ability is also a requirement for rafting the Middle Fork of the American river or any class 3/4 or 4 and above rafting section.  It is just not a river adventure for non-swimmers.  Parents often want to take their younger kids on a rafting trip that is not suitable for them, please make sure that your child has at least the above requirements.  They are young and have a long time to work their way up to more difficult rivers, the last thing that we want is to have a young rafter go on a trip that they are either not ready for or not suitable for.  We want to make sure that everyone that goes on a whitewater rafting adventure has a great time and wants to come back to challenge another river.

flash close up for wweblog answers I hope that this helps, as always if you have questions about this  information, or have other  questions about river trips, please feel free to E-Mail me, I am always  here to help no matter  what or where your river adventure is to taking you.

Hope to see you on the river this year,

Flash (over 30 years of river rafting experience around the world and back)