What are the age and experience requirements when Rafting the American River?

Updated Feb 20, 2024

The American River has rafting options for most everyone, regardless of age and experience level. As long as you are the ages 4 and above*, you can come rafting with Whitewater Excitement in addition to other rivers in California.

For the Youngest

What is the youngest you can raft on the American River?

The Young Rafters Trip allows kids as young as 4 years old to experience rafting the American River.

For kids as young as 4 years old, the Young Rafters trip on the South Fork American is the perfect introduction into the whitewater rafting world. This trip is a 4 mile section containing a few exciting Class 2 rapids with bouncy, fun waves and great scenery.

Class 3 Minimum Age Limit

What is the age limit for Class 3 rapids?

The minimum age for Class 3 rapids on the South Fork American River is 7 years old.

For the class 3 section of the South Fork of the American river, the minimum age limit is 7 years old. There is not a specific upper age limit, those older folks need to be in good physical condition, mobility, and adventure level. Rafting the South Fork of the American is a fun, exciting adventure that has something for all ages and experience levels, making it one of the most popular rivers in the United States!

Class 4

What is the age limit to raft Class 4 rapids?

The minimum age to raft Class 4 rapids is 13 years old.

Do I need experience to raft Class 4 rapids?

Previous rafting experience is not required for Class 4, however, everyone needs to be in good physical condition, be able to swim, and be on the adventurous side.


Class 4 rivers such as the Middle Fork American River and North Fork American River impose higher minimum age limits and experience requirements. The Middle Fork, which contains Class 3 and 4 Rapids, features significant drops and rapids demanding greater guest participation compared to the South Fork of the American. The minimum age for this river is 14, however those over 12 with previous rafting experience, excellent swimming ability, and above-average height may sometimes join this trip.

The usual minimum age for the North Fork American River is 15 years old, however we take into account all guests previous rafting experience and ability levels.

Do I need to know how to swim?

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.  You can read more about the swimming ability requirements in our post about swimming ability.

* All Rafters must be in good physical condition, be able to climb on and off the raft multiple times, and be under the weight limit.

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