Difficulty II+
Length 5.4 Miles
Flow Range 600 - 12000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 533 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 01/25/2019 8:18 pm

River Description

The C to G run has many Class I and II rapids, perfect for beginners and boaters of all skill levels. There are long stretches of slow moving flat water, interspersed with riffles, but there are several significant class 1, 2 and even 2+ rapids. Highway Rapid is particularly long.  

Put in:

There is a public launching area at the downstream end of the Marshal Gold Discovery State Park in Coloma. A parking fee is required of all autos.  

Take out:

Greenwood Creek river access has 40 parking stalls. Boats must be carried up a trail from the river to the parking area. This area was developed by the BLM in 2005. 

Other access locations: Boaters can also launch a short ways upstream of Marshal Park, at either American River Resort or Coloma Resort if they pay day fees or are camped there. Kayakers can launch at the highway 49 bridge, but parking is very limited. Henningson Lotus Park has a boat launching area at the downstream end.  Fees are required. Lotus Park allows day use river access for a fee. Several other campgrounds along the river provide river access for their customers. 

Local Clubs: 

There are a number of active paddling clubs that frequent this river. Listed below are just a few of our American Whitewater affiliates:
Gold Country Paddlers
Chico Paddleheads
Sierra Club: Loma Prieta Chapter.

Online Information: 

American River Page
boof.com is an online forum
The River Store is in Lotus.

The Coloma Shuttle is a program of the American River Recreation Association. Schedules are arranged so that you can eliminate the hassle of “the shuttle” out of your day and the carbon monoxide out of the environment. 

Check here to see other rivers in California of similar difficulty Class 1 & 2 Rivers

River Conservancies:
Protect American River Parkways works to protect the North and Middle forks of the American River, along with The American River Conservancy.

Rapid Descriptions


Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

There is a boat launching area at the downstream end of the Marshal Gold Discovery State Park. There is a fee for parking.   Take outs are not permitted at this location. There are several different parking areas and entrances at the park. The furthest downstream entrance should have signs for boat launching. Turn off the highway then turn left to the launching area.

Old Scary

Class - II Mile - 1.02
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

This was the biggest rapid in the section till the floods of 1982-83.


The river bends to the left and affords a view of motor homes and travel trailers lined up above the river on the right bank.   The river continues curving to the left as it drops downa a wide rapid.   Several large boulders at the bottom right offer targets for those without boat control or for those looking for extra fun maneuvering.

Highway 49 Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 1.44
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

There is a very limited amount of parking near the bridge, but it can be used as a put in or take out on river left. There are private resorts on river right.

Henningson Lotus Park

Class - N/A Mile - 2.04
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Henningson Lotus Park extends for over a half mile on river right from the Highway 49 bridge downstream. There are playing fields, picnic areas and hiking trails. A developed boat launching area with a large parking lot is at the downstream end of the playing fields.


Class - II+ Mile - 2.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

A group of islands create several alternate and interesting channels. The biggest drops are near where they come back together.

Camp Lotus

Class - N/A Mile - 3.03
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

This privately owned public campground allows boat launching and take out for people camped there or for a day use fee.

Barking Dog

Class - II Mile - 3.24

Great surf wave! The river funnels into a steep breaking wave. The wave provides a challenge to beginners trying to stay upright as they punch through. It provides a wonderful challenge to playboaters trying to surf and do acrobatic tricks.


Boaters who want to park and play can pay a day use fee to park at Camp Lotus.   From there they can paddle downstream to this play spot, then paddle back upstream when they are finished playing. 

Highway Rapid

Class - II+ Mile - 5
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The last rapid before Greenwood Creek is long and very interesting. Beginning kayakers who get tipped over and swim, could have a long, bumpy, painful ride.


Greenwood Creek River Access

Class - N/A Mile - 5.4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

The takeout is on river right, a dirt trail comes down to the river and leads back up to the parking lot.


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Frank Huang
11 months ago

Add rapid: Mile 5.38 Swimmers' Rapid. This is a large regular wave train that can be safely run as a swimmer. The second, and third wave troughs are excellent surf opportunities. There are large eddies on both river left and right to help attain back to the surf waves. The wave train is also an excellent place to practice rolling in choppy water with minimum consequences. the wave trains gets washed out at flows above 3000 CFS.

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Frank Huang
11 months ago

Add rapid: Mile 4.22 Current Divider: The section begins with a gentle sweep to the right then to the left then back to the right. Along the way there are numerous rock formations on the right and middle. Local clubs consider this section an opportunity to measure one's eddy-catching skills. Depend on flow, upwards of 25 eddies can be had.

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Frank Huang
11 months ago

Add feature: Mile 3.83 Barking Puppy (aka Dave Moore). Several rock formations divide the left channel and right channel. The right channel is a wave train with a small hole in the middle. The left channel flow turns tightly to the right and then back to the left over a small series of drops before converging the the right channel. The long and wide eddy line below the drop on the left provides an excellent opportunity to prove combat-worthiness of one's roll.

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Frank Huang
11 months ago

Add feature: Mile 3.39 Boof Rock. Just below Barking Dog on river right is a pillow shaped rock that is good boof practice for typical flows between 1200 a 1800 CFS. The reversal just behind is sticky for upright boats that fail to clear 2-3 feet past Boof Rock. To the left of the reversal, there's a fast subsurface current that helps with flushing any capsized paddlers within the reversal. Some affectionately call this the "underwater jet ferry".

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Frank Huang
11 months ago

Add Rapid: Mile 2.16, Fuzzy Bunny with a Fang. Just below the large pool in front of the beach at Henningsen Lotus Park, an island separates the left and right flows. The right channel consists of a series of 1-2 foot ledge drops. There's a small reversal at the top of the channel on the right. Once below the reversal, the ledge drop is graded with the biggest on the left and smallest on the right. The left channel consists of a large smooth tongue leading past the the island towards a pyramid shaped rock (the fang) down stream. Options to avoid the fang is either to eddy out to the right below the island or to go around the left of the fang. The latter choice will require the paddler to move right aggressively after the fang to avoid low hanging branches.

Gage Descriptions

See American, S. Fork Chili Bar (Route 193 to Coloma) for updated Flow Information

Water released at Chili Bar Dam takes about 2 hours to reach Marshall Gold Discovery State Park

A flow gauge at Chili Bar is maintained by PG&E. Flow information is distributed and stored by CDEC. You can obtain daily flow information in numeric form at this CDEC Chili Bar page. The gauge home page is at Chili Bar Gauge info. If there is no graph visible above, click on this link to a CDEC graph. Convenient flow information for almost all rivers in California and many other western states can be found at Dreamflows.com. You can also call the River Store (530) 626-3435 or the El Dorado County Flow Phone at (530) 621-6616.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2017-05-27 High Near Miss/Rescue Read More
1998-08-30 Medium Near Miss/Rescue Other Read More



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1000+ Comments Halt Threats to the South Fork American River (CA)

Theresa Simsiman

Last May American Whitewater and our colleagues at Friends of the River asked for your help to stop El Dorado Irrigation District’s (EID) proposed modification of Water Right Permit 21112. This proposal contained changes to water diversion points for 17,000-acre feet of water per year that would have been detrimental to 50 miles of whitewater on the South Fork American River. This included our favorite Class II-V whitewater reaches on Kyburz, Golden Gate, Slab Creek, Chili Bar, Coloma to Greenwood & the Gorge. We are happy to report your overwhelming response generated 1065 comments helping to stop this proposal in its tracks.

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PG&E Considers Recreational Flows Below Chili Bar During COVID-19 (CA)

Theresa Simsiman

Good news as we navigate our lives with COVID-19, American Whitewater received word that Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has made the decision NOT to cancel scheduled recreational flows on the South Fork American River. Wait what? Yes, you read correct a paddling staple we take for granted below Chili Bar was on the verge of being curtailed in the midst of a public safety emergency.

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Green Utility Takes Surprising Direction - Upper American River Project (CA)

Theresa Simsiman

Recently, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) made an unexpected move to advocate for policies that would undermine environmental protections in the Clean Water Act and the Federal Power Act.  American Whitewater worked with SMUD and other stakeholders in negotiating a settlement agreement for the Upper American River Hydroelectric Project (UARP) that was signed by all parties in 2007. The final license for the project was issued in 2014 and included whitewater recreation flows to mitigate the impacts of its project.



Paul Martzen


Matthew Henry


Thomas O'Keefe


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1196020 09/14/09 Paul Martzen
1197103 01/14/10 Paul Martzen
1197105 01/14/10 Paul Martzen
1204377 03/22/15 Matthew Henry Added Note and link to Flow description
1208497 11/19/17 Thomas O'Keefe photo added, broken links fixed
1208498 11/19/17 Thomas O'Keefe rapid edits
1210953 01/25/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1210954 01/25/19 Thomas O'Keefe updated image position
1194686 09/03/08 n/a n/a