American, N. Fork - 5. Confluence with Middle Fork to Folsom Lake

American, N. Fork, California, US


5. Confluence with Middle Fork to Folsom Lake

Usual Difficulty II(III) (for normal flows)

River Description

Since the closing of the Auburn Dam diversion tunnel in late 2007, it is now legal to boat this section of river all the way through to the reservoir.   Boaters can paddle past the infamous Auburn Dam site and enjoy the new rapids at the Auburn water pumping station.  The parking situation at the site of the new artifical rapids remains unresolved.   Public parking for the China Bar Day Use Area is open on weekends but is approximately 2 miles uphill from the river.    


Put in:
The usual launch point is at the confluence of the North and Middle forks.  Take I-80 east to the Highway 49 exist, then go south a few miles to the river.   Drive past the Highway 49 bridge onto Old Foresthill Road.   There are parking areas along the road on both sides of the river. 


Take outs: 
There are  3 take out options; Rattlesnake Bar boat ramp on Folsom Lake, Oregon Bar and Birdsall. 
Neil Nikirk reports:  For those floating the confluence run and wishing to take out before the reservoir, the best place is the Birdsall takeout about ¼ mile below the China Bar rapid (PCWA intake) near the old tunnel ending. The road goes right down to the river here and parking is on the hill above. Floating down to the other access below Oregon Hill gives you a couple more small rapids to run, but the takeout is NOT boater friendly. For this access, you must park over ½ mile away (and about 500 feet vertical!) which means carry the boat 100 yards uphill to the loading zone, walk uphill about 0.7 miles to the car and drive back down to get your boat. I was beginning to think it might be easier to paddle 5 miles across the reservoir to Rattlesnake Bar! Note, at high flows there was a beautiful retentive feature right at the (Oregon Bar) take out! 

Jeff Colteux reported on the cfsonline maillist.

"We had 4 amigos run the N. Fork American on Sunday (3-2-2008) to the tune of about 1400 cfs. .....
At the end of the trip in the parking lot we all agreed we liked this run. The new whitewater course is great at 1400cfs and Jeff W. says at 2,000 cfs just monstrous. The rapids below the whitewater park had enormous haystacks and a few noteworthy holes. The fun continued downstream with the only downer being the half hour paddle out at the end of the trip.  NO swimmers, soggy sandwiches, lots of great rapids, and more future paddling buddies. ....... Good news relayed by John Hauschild that the new takout at Oregon Bar should be operational sometime in April....."


Terry.Calif reported at on 4-25-2008

"I found the play spot where the river channel was restored to be disappointing at 1250 cfs. The 3rd of
the 4 drops on river left had biggest surfable wave. Eddies were very small. Tongue over drops is shallow and very fast water. River right chute/channel by pump station had no eddies making
it impossible to catch the turbulent wave. The reconstruction seems to have been a missed opportunity.
Seems like designer had no experience kayaking or designed for a total different river level.
Access required put in at confluence and long paddle out to Rattlesnake Bar boat ramp in Folsom lake."


Neil Nikirk reported in May of 2009:

The “China Bar Day Use Area” is now open on weekends and provides access to the old Auburn Dam site and facilities along the river. It has been rumored that the new rapid provides play opportunities and has been called the “AuburnPlayPark”. So we just had to check it out last weekend while the flows were big. Unfortunately, it is not a “play park” in the same sense as the RenoWhitewaterPark and other play parks we have used in Colorado (where every river town seems to have one!). There is no vehicle access to the rapid, it must be accessed via floating from the confluence. You could always carry your boat down the trail from the top (maybe 2 miles) or walk up from the downstream access point (1/2 mile).


At over 8000 cfs that day, the rapid itself looked like it had some big hydraulic features to run. Looked to be an entrance wave and then at least four hydraulic features. They were probably surfable at the high flow, but pretty violent too. Catch them on the way down as there wasn’t much chance of getting back up except by carrying along the portage trail. Maybe at lower water this rapid will have a good play wave and area for surfing and playing. I sure hope so! Have to check it out later when the flows come down. Would be interested in hearing what others have to say about the play possibilities at various flows for rafts and cats.



Stephen Wright reported in April of 2009,
At the levels we were there, we found a fast, fun wave up top with a greener slower wave behind it. We've been told that other levels sometimes yield 3 different spots."

Other Information Sources: 

American River NF-MF Auburn Run (III).   river guide page at BRT insights.

Pumping Station Rapids   river guide page at BRT insights.

Friends of the River
Placer County Water Agency
        American River Pump Station pdf
       Placer County Water Agency Middle Fork American Hydropower Relicensing Homepage

Read the Sacramento Bee article.
Watch it flow, a short video (mpg).
Stephen Wright report


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-08-26 21:49:06


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
3.5Pumping Station RapidsIIPlayspot
5.2Oregon Bar, take outTakeout Access

Rapid Descriptions

Pumping Station Rapids (Class II, Mile 3.5)

The city of Auburn built a pumping station in the river bed to supply water to the city.  The river river bed was altered to accomodate the pumping.  The river is divided into two channels with water flowing through the gravel streambed into the pumps on the river right.  Both channels have artificial rapids and offer play possibilities at some levels.  There is a portage trail on river left, so boaters can scout and carry back upstream. 

Although there is a road down to the site, the public is not allowed to drive down to the river at present.  Public parking is 2 miles up hill from the river.   Boaters are hoping to obtain public parking and vehicle access at the river, in the future.


This is a potential take out just a short ways past the pumping station and China Bar rapids.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.

No Comments

Do more than just check gauges; join over 5,000 AW members today.

Or, consider donating