Whitewater Rafting on the American River


Yes, you will get wet! 

The South Fork American River is one of the most popular whitewater destinations in the United States. The 21-mile run from Chili Bar past American River Resort and on to Salmon Falls includes 20 named rapids and many waves in between. Depending on water conditions, rapids range in difficulty from Class I to Class III+.

In the upper gorge from Chili Bar to Troublemaker, the river descends an exciting 30 feet per mile, slows to 9 feet per mile through Coloma Valley, then 33 feet per mile through the lower gorge.

River Rafting Trip Made Easy

The South Fork of the American River offers a range of thrills to rafters or kayakers.

mellow Class II section provides fun for families with youngsters or for those wanting an introduction to true whitewater rafting.

There’s the Gorge or Chili Bar runs that provide a whole lot of splashy Class III excitement. Also good for older kids and all adults, these are among the top most favored river runs in America among casual outdoor adventurers.

The river flows more wildly down the Middle and North Forks presenting challenges and excitement for the somewhat experienced enthusiast.

Whichever fork of the river you prefer, American River Resort puts you close to the action.

American Whitewater Expeditions and American River Recreation are whitewater outfitters stationed right here at American River Resort, which makes your river adventure a snap! Combine your rafting adventure with camping or a cabin-stay at the Resort and benefit by beginning and ending your river-running adventure right here as well.

We offer a variety of half day, full day, and multi-day packages, provide professional-grade equipment and experienced guides.

Rafters of all ages are jumping at the chance to experience the heart-pumping thrills of the American River, one of the most popular rafting rivers in the US for non-professional rafters. It offers an ideal balance of adrenaline and fun plus breathtaking scenery along the way.

American Whitewater Expeditions and American River Recreation (5 Stars on Yelp)–based right here at the ARR–offers professionally-guided river trips daily on the South and Middle Forks of The American River.

Unless You’re a Pro, It’s More Fun With a Guide

If you’re not experienced, booking with a professional outfitter is the best choice over attempting to run the river with your own equipment and know-how. It’s not only the least troublesome choice—the company handles all the gear and details at both ends of the run—guides know the river intimately, know how to read its quirks and moods. They can take rafters through the most exciting parts of the rapids, knowing which angle of approach is best and safest.

Famous Troublemaker
Some of the American River’s rapids have ominous sounding names like Meatgrinder, Troublemaker, Satan’s Cesspool, and Hospital Bar. Troublemaker is the best-known and has a reputation to match its name. It’s a Class III+ rated rapid and whether it provides terror or thrills depends on your emotional state by the time you reach it!

Troublemaker & American River Resort
Troublemaker sits on a broad bend of the river that borders American River Resort on one side. Only ARR’s registered guests have permission to access the shore on our side of Troublemaker. To sit on the rocks and watch the action up close is a lot of fun!

Boater’s Description of Troublemaker
“The river enters a boulder garden, followed by a falls, with an S-channel on the far left. The rapid’s name describes your route well. At lower flows, the true path is narrow indeed. If you shade right, a large diagonal wave tends to flip kayaks. If you go too far left, you end up in an eddy that is hard to exit. Precise placement of the raft into the gut of the hole surfs you next to a big rock on the left below, then through a steep channel along Gunsight rock, where rafts often end up wrapped. In any case, the swim isn’t too bad, but keep your feet up.”

Troublemaker is rated Class III+ on the standardized scale of river difficulty.

Class III is defined as: “Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided. Strong eddies and powerful current effects can be found, particularly on large-volume rivers. Scouting is advisable for inexperienced parties. Injuries while swimming are rare; self-rescue is usually easy, but group assistance may be required to avoid long swims.”

One phone call gets you ready for the adventure of a lifetime! Just get yourself here and we’ll take care of everything else.

Do you think theme park river rides are fun?

We’ve got the real thing!

Book a river adventure plus camping, RVing or cabin lodging by making one easy reservation!

  • River trip options from mild to wild for ages 6 to 106
  • The best guides on the American River with the safest records
  • Resort lodging for tent and platform camping, RVing, and premium river cabins
  • Camp equipment rentals and ready-made meals
  • Spacious camp areas for big families and groups
  • Clean facilities
  • Friendly staff

whitewater action

The South Fork American River is one of the most popular whitewater destinations in the United States, and the American River Resort is it’s epicenter for whitewater rafting.


the american river

The American River water system consists of the North, Middle, and South Forks. Experience all 3 forks of the American River during your stay at the Resort.



Troublemaker is the best known and largest rapid on the South Fork American River located right here at the American River Resort!


enjoy! be safe!

The river has many moods so be responsible while enjoying your day on the water.