American, N. Fork - 3. Chamberlain Falls: Colfax-Iowa Hill Road to Yankee Jims Road

American, N. Fork, California, US


3. Chamberlain Falls: Colfax-Iowa Hill Road to Yankee Jims Road

Usual Difficulty IV (for normal flows)
Length 4.8 Miles
Avg. Gradient 41 fpm

Chamberlain Falls, raft descent

Chamberlain Falls, raft descent
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 05/18/08 @ 1600 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-11427000 400 - 3500 cfs IV 00h49m 404 cfs (running)

River Description

The North Fork Chamberlain run is a very popular run due to it's proximity to Sacramento, and great class IV white water. At 4.9 miles, it's a fairly short run, but it is stacked with rapids and flows typically December through June in an average year. If you are looking for fun class IV in the winter and sping, this run is perfect. It only takes a little rain to bring the levels up to a boatable level. 300-400 cfs is the bare-bones minimum, 1000-2500 the sweet spot for most boaters, and above 2500 increasingly pushy and difficult. It has been run as high as 20,000+cfs but this is the territory of big water class V boaters only. Be warned. Although this isn't a super hard class IV stretch, it has it's fair share of undercuts, and pin rocks and was the scene of several bad rafting accidents some years ago when rapids were in a somewhat different configuration than now. Due to the fact that it's run so often, it can be easy to underestimate the dangers. Boaters who use this run to jump from class III to IV, should be sure to go with an experienced group of boaters, and to scout and set up proper safety where needed.


For more information, also check out CA Creeks, and Wet State, Holbeck and Stanley, Cassidy and Calhoun.

Camping is now permited in the following areas on the North Fork American:

·      2000’ downstream of Iowa Hill Bridge to 1000’ upstream of Yankee Jim Bridge

·      2000’ downstream of Ponderosa Bridge to 1 mile downstream of Codfish Creek

A permit is required. These can be picked up at the Auburn State Recreation Area Office.

Contact Auburn State Recreation Area Whitewater Recreation Office: (530) 823-4162

CA State Parks Gold Fields District Office: (916) 988-0205




StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2015-06-08 14:24:00


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.5Slaughter's SluiceIVPhoto
0.8Chamberlain FallsIVPhoto
1.1Tongue and GrooveIV
1.6Zig ZagIII+Photo
2.4Achilles' HeelIII+
2.7Bogus ThunderIVPhoto
3.0Grand SlalomIV
3.6Nose StandIIIPhoto
4.9Yankee Jim BridgeTakeout Photo

Rapid Descriptions

Slaughter's Sluice (Class IV, Mile 0.5)

Slaughter's Sluice

Slaughter's Sluice
Photo of Norwood Scott by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 05/18/08 @ 1600 cfs

Chamberlain Falls (Class IV, Mile 0.8)

Chamberlain Falls

Chamberlain Falls
Photo of Ben VanCamp by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 05/18/08 @ 1600 cfs

Large hole in the center. Most boaters take the tongue on the left.

Tongue and Groove (Class IV, Mile 1.1)
Follow the tongue on the left.

Zig Zag (Class III+, Mile 1.6)

Zig Zag

Zig Zag
Photo by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 05/18/08 @ 1600 cfs

Boulder garden

Achilles' Heel (Class III+, Mile 2.4)
Another boulder garden.

Bogus Thunder (Class IV, Mile 2.7)

Keith Kishiyama, Bogus Thunder, NF American

Keith Kishiyama, Bogus Thunder, NF American
Photo of Keith Kishiyama by Ian Buckley taken 02/18/07 @ 1000

There is a large boulder in the middle of this run that makes the rapid challenging. One can run right down the middle, over a small hole, and down the tongue. You can also cut over to river left and catch a small channel down to the bottom. This rapid changes as the flows rise and fall. Be sure to scout this one.

Grand Slalom (Class IV, Mile 3.0)
Read and run around large boulders. The rapid takes you far left, then right, then back to the right. At low to med flows, there are eddys that can be caught throughout this rapid.

Staircase (Class IV, Mile 3.3)


Photo of Norwood Scott by Thomas O'Keefe В© taken 05/18/08 @ 1600 cfs

Pick your way through small drops and waves to set up for the exit chute.

Nose Stand (Class III, Mile 3.6)

Below Nose Stand

Below Nose Stand


This rapid creates a great traditional spot to go for old school nose stands. It is the scene of many an icecream headache and missed roll in the dead of Winter.


Yankee Jim Bridge

Take Out Bridge

Take Out Bridge

Take out on the beach river left upstream of the bridge

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