White Water Rafting in Southern California

Updated: Nov 30, 2023

When it comes to experiencing the thrill of whitewater rafting in Southern California, there are few options. The American River, only 6-8 hours away, emerges as the premier destination, offering an exhilarating escape from the business of the city. From Boy scouts earning their Whitewater Merit Badge, Church groups looking for a group getaway, to familys wanting a weekend getaway, whitewater rafting is the perfect choice.

Whitewater Excitement ensures an unforgettable journey through the captivating rapids of the American River. With options for beginners to experts, the American River offers a rafting adventure for everyone, especially those coming up for an overnight trip.

If it’s the excitement and thrills of the rapids you’re looking for, you should know that whitewater rafting in Southern California begins with the American River.

White Water Rafting in Southern California on the American River

This three pronged gem ( the South, Middle, and North Forks of the American) runs from the Sierra Nevada mountain range until it converges with the Sacramento River in the San Joaquin Valley. Ranging through old Gold Rush territory, stunning geological formations and wildflower dotted wildernesses of the Sierra foothills, the American River has three popular sections.

family standing by the river holding the paddles

South Fork of the American River

The South Fork of the American River is the best option for families from Southern California looking for a two or three day river rafting vacation. With Class 3 rapids, the South Fork is a fantastic starter run for beginner and intermediate rafters – exciting, but not too intense. The South Fork meanders through some beautiful scenic areas, including Coloma State Park, where gold was first discovered in California. If you’re looking to accommodate a diverse group with varying levels of physical ability, the South Fork is the SoCal rafting trip for you. Check out our South Fork ½-day, Full Day, and 2-Day rafting trips.

Middle Fork of the American River

The Middle Fork of the American River is a step up in adventure. Featuring Class 4 rapids through a beautiful, isolated canyon, the Middle Fork promises some real thrills and a solitude on the river that is truly unique. Check out our Middle Fork ½-day, Full Day, and 2-Day rafting trips.

North Fork of the American River

Unlike the hydro-dam controlled South and Middle Forks, the North Fork is a naturally flowing river that is highest during springtime snowmelt. It is the most intense and technical of the American River sections, with crystal clear waters, steep gorges and endless rapids. You must be in good physical condition and have previous river rafting experience to take on this section of the river. Check out our North Fork ½-day, Full Day, and 2-Day rafting trips.

Merced River

huge wave swamps raft on merced river

Located 6 hours from Southern California, the Merced River flows from the peaks of Yosemite National Park. When the lupine, redbud and poppy bloom in spring, you’ll find some roaring Class 4 rapids along the river’s 18-mile stretch. A great option for those coming to see Yosemite and wanting a super exciting white water rafting trip. You should be in good physical condition and ready for adventure to take on this pristine example of exciting white water rafting in Southern California. Check out our Merced River Full Day rafting trip.

Want to go Southern California river rafting but unsure how to get to us?

Call us at 1-800-750-2386 to reserve your trip dates and get recommendations on transportation and local lodging if needed.

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