This lazy section of river through Sacramento runs all year round, but gets heavy use from floaters in the summer time. The river is bordered by Sacramento County's American River Parkway which has bike paths, parking areas and access areas. There are several different access locations along the river such as at Sunrise Ave - SACParks - Sunrise (PDF) and at SACParks - Watt Avenue (PDF).
There are a number of sections of swiftwater and riffles, but San Juan Rapids are the notable excitement. San Juan hole is good for playboating at many flow levels.
Sunrise Avenue is the start for the paddling portion of Eppie's Great Race. This long standing triathalon draws nearly 1,000 paddlers every July.
Other Information Sources: American River Main Stem California Creekin'. American River Parkway Folsom Dam State Parks website Sacramento State Aquatics Center at Lake Natomas on the upstream side of Nimbus Dam. Nimbus DamNimbus Fish Hatchery is located just below Nimbus dam.
Folsom South Canal: Water is diverted at Nimbus dam into the Folsom South Canal for municipal and industrial use south of Sacramento. The canal has a capacity of 3,500 cfs, but this author is unable to find actual flow records as of Nov 2010. There is a bicycle path along the canal and an organization dedicated to developing a Folsom South Canal Corridor Plan. The canal is part of the Auburn Folsom South Project of Bureau of Reclamation.
Nimbus Whitewater: Michael Picker wrote at Boof.com in 2010Remove the weir at Nimbus Dam and build a play wave near Hazel Av
Boating is not allowed within 1,000 feet of Nimbus Dam by order of the county of Sacramento, possibly because of this weir. However, there are reports that people do launch and float down from above the weir when the fish barriers are not in place. Some people have surfed below the weir at high flows. There may be various hazards at this weir.
There are Studies to remove, relocate or alter this weir.
This is the highest legal put in for launching onto the lower American River. It is on river right.
This appears to be the start of a very long riffle or rapid.
Sunrise is possibly the most used put in for floating the lower American. There are large parking areas for river access on both sides of the river.
Ideal levels for the San Juan hole are between 1,400 and 3,100 cfs with 2,100 cfs primo. At 1,400 cfs it a shallow, rocky and sticky hole; at 2,100 cfs it is a gently retentive hole that is great for cartwheels and loops; at 3,100 cfs it is a very fast wave with a foam pile that still gives up spins, blunts and an end or two.
The lower American River, below Nimbus Dam has boatable flows all year round. Flows are highest in the spring ranging from 4,000 cfs in drier years to 10,000 cfs in average years and much higher in wet years. Flows are lowest in the winter, but do not drop below 1000 cfs in most years.
Water from Folsom Reservoir is released from the dam through a powehouse to generate electricity. Flows vary during the day according to power demand. Nimbus dam forms a much smaller reservoir just big enough to reregulate or smooth out the variable flows from Folsom. Water from Nimbus is also released through turbines to produce electricity. A large portion of the water in Nimbus reservoir is sent out through the Folsom South Canal for municipal and industrial use in Sacramento and San Joaquin Counties.
Gauge info: AMERICAN RIVER AT FAIR OAKS Flow and Stage - 15 minute readings. AMERICAN R AT HAZEL AVE BRIDGE Temperature - 15 minute readings AMERICAN RIVER AT H STREET BRIDGE Stage - 15 minute readings AMERICAN RIVER AT WILLIAM B POND PARK Temperature - 15 minute readings AMERICAN RIVER BELOW WATT AVE BRIDGE Temperature - 15 minute readings AMERICAN R BELOW FOLSOM DAM temperature - 15 minute readings. USGS gauge #11446500 American River at Fair Oaks Daily average flow and daily temperature readings.
Folsom South Canal is 26 miles long and has a capacity of 3,500 cfs. Folsom Reservoir Hourly Inflow, Outflow, Elevation and Storage readings.
USGS Schematic of Dams, diversions and gauges on Lower Sacramento
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Nimbus Dam 2
Fish Barrier and Hatchery Pano
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