North Fork American Wild and Scenic River, California
The North Fork of the American River originates in eastern Placer County in the Tahoe National Forest. It flows west and then southwest, passing the town of Colfax and on through Clementine/North Fort Reservoir; it meets the Middle Fork of the American four miles below the North Fork Reservoir Dam near the town of Auburn and flows past the site of the abandoned Auburn Dam. The Tahoe National Forest manages the upper 26 miles of this wild reach and the Bureau of Land Management manages the lower third.
While the awe-inspiring river canyon is best known for its thrilling whitewater, challenging hiking trails, excellent fishing, abundant wildlife and dramatic scenery contribute to its popularity and significance in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
The watershed a popular recreation designation. Gorge scrambling is the most popular activity, followed by hiking, fishing and boating. Hikers and fishing enthusiasts can choose from a number of trails to access the river canyon, most of them dropping steeply from the canyon rim down to the water. The rivers offer a wide variety of whitewater recreation opportunities, including Class IV and V reaches.
The North Fork of the American River has the classic hydrologic characteristics of an "A" channel river, with its scoured rocks, high waterfalls and deep plunge pools throughout. Walls tower 2,000 feet to 4,000 feet above the river, creating a majestic backdrop for cascading waterfalls, brightly colored wildflowers and the bright, clear water of the river itself.
Photo by Bob Wick, BLM.
The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act provides three levels of river classification: wild, scenic, and recreational.
Wild rivers are free of dams, generally inaccessible except by trail, and represent vestiges of primitive America.
Scenic rivers are free of dams, with shorelines or watersheds that are still largely primitive and shorelines that are largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads.
Recreational rivers are readily accessible by road or railroad, may have some development along their shorelines, and may have been dammed in the past.