California Whitewater Rafting with WET


iVillage: The Women's Network

North Fork of the American

Difficulty: Class IV+
Length: 9.3 miles
Flows: 1000 cfs - 3000 cfs
Gradient: 35 ft/mi
Put-in: Iowa Hill Road
Take-out: Ponderosa Way
Season: March to June

The North Fork of the American is the classic Class IV run in California. It is best known for its crystal clear water, challenging rapids, and spring wildflowers. The North Fork is a free flowing river above this run, so the flow is entirely dependent on weather and snowpack. With a good snowpack, this run has reliable flows usually from mid-March through mid-June.

Featured Outfitter

W.E.T. River Trips runs California rafting trips for corporate, family, student group events on the North Fork of the American all spring throughout the season.

The North Fork starts with nearly continuous whitewater including the Class IV rapids Slaughter's Sluice and Chamberlain Falls which come in the first mile. The rapids Tongue and Groove, Zig-Zag, Achilles' Heel, Bogus Thunder, Grand Slalom, and Staircase are all fun Class IV rapids which occur in the first four miles.

Just below staircase is a wonderful lunch spot at Indian Creek on the left. Below Yankee Jim, the rapids are mostly Class III until the take-out at Ponderosa Way. If you go further to Lake Clementine you can add an additional four miles to your trip.

If you're interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out CaCreeks North Fork American description. For more information about the American River system, check out the American River Rafting Page.

To find out even more information about rafting the North Fork, go to or RaftInfo's American River page.


To reach the Ponderosa Way Bridge from Sacramento (put-in): Get yourself on Interstate 80 East and head towards Reno. You'll want to take the Weimar Cross Road exit which will be about twelve miles past Auburn. Take a left on Canyon Way and then a right on Ponderosa Way. You'll travel on dirt and paved roads down to the Ponderosa Bridge where you can park a car along the road before the bridge.

To reach Iowa Hill Bridge from Ponderosa Way Bridge (take-out): Get onto Interstate 80 East and drive to Colfax where you should take the main Colfax exit. Veer to the right and take a right onto Canyon Way which is a frontage road. You'll see a Chevron station at the intersection which is a great place to meet the bros, get a Cliff Bar, or use the restroom. You'll travel down Canyon Way for about a quarter of a mile and take a left onto Colfax-Iowa Hill Road. Take this down to the famous Iowa Hill Bridge. Commercial companies put in on the right before the bridge and private boaters park on the left at the campground after the bridge.


Adventure Connection

American River Recreation

Outdoor Adventures, UC Davis

Tributary Whitewater Tours

W.E.T. River Trips

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Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.

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