South Fork of the American River
The Gold Rush River, the South Fork of the American River, today still delivers its own special currency as the most popular (and most populated) whitewater run in California. Even before James Marshall's fortuitous 1848 find in John Sutter's mill race, the Rio de los Americanos flaunted its reputation as a wild and capricious mountain stream.
Today, tempered by upstream dams, the South Fork still lurches and bucks through cataracts of boulders, drops and chutes, on its headstrong plunge through Meatgrinder, Fowlers Rock, and Satan's Cesspool, then delivers a rough goodbye at Hospital Bar. Along with these heart-stopping rapids, you'll no doubt come to shore long enough to do some discovering of your own at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. The 21 mile river run can be made in a full day or a more relaxing two day trip. Picnicking is available at the Dave Moore Nature Area which is accessible by automobile from Highway 49 or by boat on the river.
Take US 50 to the town of Placerville, then follow Highway 49 to Highway 193 to the Chili Bar Reservoir. Highway 49 also runs through Coloma for river access at the Henningsen-Lotus Park. Put-in options include: Chili Bar, Henningsen-Lotus Park, Hwy. 49 Bridge West, Marshall Gold Discovery Park, Camp Lotus.
Photo by Maria Thi Mai, BLM.