Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Which trip is best for me?

    We take special care to design all our American river rafting trips suitable for every age group, beginning with age 5. Young or old, those who have taken an adventure with us have had one of the most amazing experiences of their lives. First-time rafters and those quite young are advised to begin with the gentle waters of the South Fork of the American, and then progress up the ladder of difficulty from there. However, we can also please first-timers who are adventurous and in good physical condition who may be looking for more of a challenge. Because you will be wearing life jackets at all times on the river, you need not be an outstanding swimmer.

  • How do I make a reservation or request a catalog?

    Guests can check availability and/or make reservations by calling WWE’s office at 1-800-750-2386 or by going online and book your trip there or just send us a check availability form and we will get right back to you. Phone reservations will be held, but not confirmed, for 10 days. After 10 days, a 50% deposit of your total trip cost is required to confirm the dates you request. If our office has not received your deposit within 10 days, your reservations will be canceled, opening those spaces up on a first-come first-served basis. For confirmed reservations with deposits made, the remaining balance is due no later than 40 days prior to the start of your trip. To receive a FREE full-color Whitewater Excitement catalog, fill out the online form, or call us at 1-800-750-2386

  • What about cancellations & refunds?

    Please be sure that you fully understand WWE’s cancellation policy prior to making any reservations: If you must cancel your reservation with us, all but a $25.00 per person cancellation fee will be refunded to you, provided that we receive written notice of your cancellation in our office at least 31 days prior to your trip date. For cancellations made 30 days or less, the entire trip fees are non-refundable, in which case we encourage you to find substitutes for the cancelled space(s). NO trip date changes may be made within 31 days of your booked trip. Please understand that when we make a reservation for you for a specific date and trip, we are holding spaces for you and turning others away because of space limitations imposed on us by various governmental agencies. Those spaces are very difficult to fill at the last minute. We reserve the right to cancel or modify a trip due to weather (trips run rain or shine), water conditions, insufficient reservations or other circumstances beyond our control. In such cases we are only responsible for the trip fees paid to us. Guides and other on-river staff employed by Whitewater Excitement are not authorized to make or promise trip refunds or credits. Such determinations can only be made by the WWE Office Staff. Trip Travel Insurance is strongly suggested and will cover such cancellations. Trips depart rain or shine. Your signature below acknowledges that you understand and agree to these terms and conditions, and authorize any credit card activity that has been arranged by telephone or via the internet.

  • What kind of physical condition must I be in?

    Whitewater rafting, just as any other activity or sport, requires a degree of physical exertion. It is therefore important that we have the following guidelines to ensure the safety and enjoyment of each participant. Every rafter must be able to properly wear a WWE life jacket, which accommodates torsos with a circumference of maximum 56 inches. Participants with potential health concerns: if you are in poor physical condition or are overweight, have a history of asthma, allergic reactions to bee stings, heart trouble, epilepsy or any other medical condition that may endanger yourself or others or diminish your enjoyment of the trip, you should consult a physician prior to making a reservation. We strongly discourage women who are pregnant from participating in our rafting trips, for obvious reasons.

  • How safe is rafting?

    At Whitewater Excitement, Inc., your safety and enjoyment are our utmost concerns. However, whitewater rafting, just as any adventure sport, involves a level of inherent danger and risk. Injury through accidents can indeed occur, and participant belongings can be damaged or lost. WWE does not assume responsibility for any injury or death to participants, nor for the loss of personal belongings, damage to cameras or any other item, or for the loss of time and/or expenses incurred by an accident while on one of our trips. In order to best accommodate a variety of experience levels and/or physical conditioning, we offer a wide range of trips. Because we are not qualified, nor in the position to, properly assess your health and/or physical condition, we rely solely on your judgment to choose a trip that is suitable for your fitness and experience level. If you have particular concerns regarding your physical condition, we recommend that you first consult a physician. All trip participants are required to read and sign an Assumption of Risk and Release of Liability form prior to the trip departure. Please call us with any concerns or questions or if you would like a copy of this form sent to you.

  • May I bring alcohol on the river?

    For safety reasons Whitewater Excitement, Inc. cannot and does not permit alcoholic beverages while on the river. There are, however cold beer and local wines to taste and enjoy following the trip with dinner (if you have booked a multi-day american river rafting trip. We must note that excessive drinking and whitewater simply do not mix. Whitewater Excitement Inc., therefore, reserves the right to refuse a registered guest or terminate a trip if we believe that any person or persons is creating a safety hazard to himself, other passengers, or staff.

  • What are Whitewater Excitement’s permits for rafting?

    Whitewater Excitement, Inc. is a licensed outfitter that is granted the use of these rivers by the Bureau of Land Management, California State Parks, U.S. Forest Service, and El Dorado County which requires the following notice: “In its natural state the South Fork of the American River would not have sufficient flows throughout the summer season to support rafting or other river activities as we know them today. Adequate flows for such activities are the result of releases from hydroelectric facilities located at Chili Bar and above. Such releases are made when necessary for power generation, and are not subject to the control of El Dorado County or commercial rafting companies operating permits from the County of El Dorado.” Whitewater Excitement, Inc. is a proud member of America Outdoors, California Outdoors, Friends of the River, and the El Dorado Professional Outfitters Association.

  • Should I tip our river guide?

    TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP – THAT IS THE QUESTION! We get asked this all the time by our guests on the American River. Tipping your river raft guide is a nice way to show your appreciation that he or she 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. Tipping your river raft guide is just like tipping any other service industry, if good service is given then reward them with a nice tip. Check our the American River Rafting Guide for more information about tipping your river raft guide. ANY TIP 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).

  • Can I request a certain river guide?

    REQUEST YOUR FAVORITE RIVER RAFTING GUIDE! Absolutely! If you have been on a previous rafting trip on the American River and would like to have the same favorite river rafting guide is easy – Just call! and mention it to the specialist making your reservation and every attempt will be made to accommodate your request. Many river rafting 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 RIVER RAFTING 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 river 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 river rafting 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.

  • Can I go rafting if I can't swim and where can I go?

    Swimming ability is always recommended, but not required to go rafting 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 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 and go rafting on any river trip above class 3, then swimming ability is required. 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 go rafting on a trip that is class 4 or 5. Some of the participants cannot swim, can we still go rafting. The level of participation also needs to increase on harder rivers and rapids. All participants will need to paddle together through the harder rapids in order for the raft to safely negotiate them. Well the answer, for the safety of the non-swimmer and everyone else on the trip, is unfortunately 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 CLASS 3 RAPID …can be a harrowing experience for folks that don’t have much experience. Falling out in a 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 adventurous, and are up for the higher level of participation to go on the more challenging river. Check out the American River Rafting Guide for more information on rafting and swimming.

  • River rafting photos - where do we get them?

    RIVER RAFTING PHOTOS are a great way …to remember the awesome time you had while on your rafting trip. Professional photographers are taking river rafting 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 river rafting photos photographer of choice for most rafting companies operating on either the 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 AMERICAN RIVER …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 river rafting photos at 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. For the Middle Fork, you can also go to their shop, however, you can also go online to 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.

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

    The best time to go rafting on the American River …. is really anytime! It 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. ON THE MIDDLE FORK OF THE AMERICAN RIVER, the hydro-dam operators are not releasing raftable flows right now 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 THE BEST TIME to go rafting on the American river, and 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. After saying all of the above, I WILL ANSWER THE ACTUAL QUESTION: 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. 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!

  • Where is the South Fork American river is located?

    THE SOUTH FORK AMERICAN RIVER IS LOCATED… in the heart of the gold country near Coloma, California. This is where gold was first discovered in 1848 by James Marshall. Whitewater Excitement, Inc is right on the banks of the South Fork of the American river, located near Placerville, CA – just west of Lake Tahoe. 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. SO NOW YOU KNOW WHERE THE South Fork American is river located, what are you waiting for, come on up and enjoy a day of white water rafting on the most popular river for rafting in California. Make your way up and get on the river this spring or summer for the time of your life. You’ll get super wet, experience the thrill of super fun rapids, beautiful canyons, and even an awesome lunch. Try a two day trip that includes camping and meals, a great way to get the family together and connected again. Try both the American’s in one trip – the best two day rafting trip available.

  • Should I bring my own water bottle?

    YES, IT IS IMPORTANT to stay hydrated while whitewater rafting on the American River! Typically during the summer on the American River, the weather can be very hot. You can place your reusable or recyclable water bottle on the bottom of the raft and it will keep cool with the river water (no need for a cooler for your drinks as they have a tendency to bang into shins and other body parts) – make sure the cap is tight as you do not want to drink a mix a river water, and lip balm. Some companies provide a cooler at the end of the trip and fill it with lots of sodas, Capri sun drinks, and water bottles to quench your thirst and continue to keep you hydrated after a fun day on the river.

  • What happens to my money if I have to cancel?

    CANCELLATION POLICIES may vary some between companies, but like most businesses that have advance bookings a cancellation policy is standard. Government agencies impose limitations on the amount of space each company has on the river, so when you make a reservation for a specific date and spaces are being held for you, others are being are turned away, when those spaces are full. Generally, outside of 30 days prior to your trip date you can get a partial to full refund, inside of 30 days prior to your trip there is no refund. It is always a good idea to check with the outfitter about their Cancellation Policy before making a reservation, so you know what to expect if you have to cancel. Trip travel insurance is suggested in case of an unforeseen cancellation.

  • Do Rafters fall out of the raft into the river?

    THIS IS ANOTHER GOOD QUESTION TO ASK. The answer is yes, they do sometimes rafters fall out of the raft into the river while they are rafting the American river. However, after saying that, it is only a small percentage of rafters that actually fall out on a commercially guided whitewater rafting trip. IT IS THE GOAL OF MOST RIVER RAFTING COMPANIES … to keep all rafters in the raft through the big rapids. Rafts have places to hold onto if you need to. Also, most river rafting companies have secure places to put your feet to give you stability, and when you are paddling through the rapids, you will actually stay in the raft better. Lastly, there is also, believe it or not, a place to put your rear end, your touché! We call these 3 positions, in river rafting terms, the rafter’s tripod – feet, rear end, and paddle. Keep these in place and working, and you will more often than not, not fall overboard in the rapids. There are times, though, even when having a great rafter’s tripod going, you still find rafters fall out of the raft and into the river. Don’t panic though, you are wearing a commercially designed PFD (personal floatation device), we used to be able to call it a life jacket, but not a days, especially in California River rafting, we cannot. These PFD’s have 4-6 buckles that tighten up around your body and give you a lot of extra floatation in the river. They do not keep you on top of the surface 100% of the time, but almost 99% or so. Just make sure when you go to the American river, or any river rafting trip that is, you keep your PFD tight and make sure that it is initially tighten by one of the guide staff. They know how to make sure it is at the right tension. If you loosen it up, the life jacket (oops – PFD) will float, but you will not float as well. PRIOR TO GETTING IN THE RAFTS FOR A RIVER TRIP, the guide staff will give a river safety and orientation talk that will cover what you need to do if you fall overboard in the rapids, we call this an OBE, out of boat experience. The shortened version is to get on your back with your feet high in front of you, facing downstream, so you can see you toes and try to relax. Never try to stand up in a moving river that is one of the most dangerous circumstances in any type of river experience. The PFD will float you high enough in the river to breath, and there will be rafts or safety kayakers nearby to help you out. A lot of the time, guests come back from a trip where they have fallen out, and they say it was the highlight of their trip, but, our jobs as river rafting companies and guides is to keep you in the raft. A good question to ask when you are considering making a reservation for a rafting trip, is does the river company try to hit the rapids or rocks on purpose to knock guests into the river. I have seen this happen and shake my head in disbelief. Not with our company. Some guides say they get better tips if they toss their guests into the river. I would not choose that company! A very few river rafting companies on the American river have a safety incentive program, that rewards guides for keeping their guests in the rafts and having a clean run on the river, at Whitewater Excitement, we do! We do, however, encourage our guests to float/swim some of the easier rapids on the trip, at selected rapids only. There is one rapid on the South Fork of the American river, called what else, swimmer’s rapid. A small bouncy class 2 rapid with a big calm pool after it. A great experience for those who are up for it. We instruct them on when to go, what to do (again) and keep everyone close to be there for those who got in over their head. Most often everyone has a great time, and it is very good experience to have if you were to be an OBE in one of the big rapids. OF COURSE, EVEN THE MOST EXPERIENCED RAFTERS FALL OUT OF THE RAFT A river company or guide, cannot guarantee that rafters do fall overboard. Sometimes whole rafts will turn over (not very often though). As you take on more difficult rivers and rapids (class 3 is a good place to start for your first trip, class 4 is harder, and class 5 is the hardest, only for those with lots of rafting experience). A good guide to check out is the American River rafting guide, it will give you some pointers on how to stay in the raft. REST ASSURED, most all California River rafting companies, will take your safety very, very seriously and have it their goal to keep all passengers in the raft during the rapids. River rafting in California, is one of the most exciting adventures that you can do, there is more danger for people on the drive to the rafting trip, than the rafting trip itself.

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