Monday, September 20

Kayaking the American River - South Fork

My suggestion for an excellent weekend on the South Fork:

- Arrive Friday night.
- Camp at
Camp Lotus. I think this one of the nicer and quieter campsites in Lotus/Coloma. It is also right on the river and perfect for put in and take out. It is also at mile 9, which is almost half way down. You can run half the river over two days due to the central
location. Also makes shuttles much easier!
- Put in at Chili Bar early on Sat morning (9am) as the flow comes up. Run the river back down to Lotus and take out.
- After sleeping in, put in at Camp Lotus later on Sunday morning once the flow is up. Run the river all the way down through the Gorge to Salmon Falls.

The South Fork of the American River is the kayaking staple - the meat & potatoes - for kayakers in the Bay Area because of its proximity. It is located just northwest of Sacramento about 120 miles from San Francisco around the small town of Coloma - a 2.5 hour drive on a good day, a hellish 5 hours on a bad one like a holiday weekend!

The whole run from just below Chili Bar dam to the Salmon Falls takeout at Folsom Lake is just over 20 miles and can EASILY be run in one day. has a great summary mile-by-mile and has lots of details about other runs - cool website. You can also checkout the flows and news on the American River site. The South Fork has enough excitement to keep you coming back for more.

Meatgrinder (III+ due to technical difficulty) and Troublemaker (III+ to IV- dependent on flow) keep you humble. Meatgrinder isn't really scoutable, but Troublemaker definitely is and should be the first time you run it.

There are lots of places to put in and take out:
- Chili Bar: The morning put in that'll set you up for the whole day run to Salmon Falls through the Gorge, or for a take out part of the way down. It all begins here.
- Marshall Park: Popular put in, "officially" not a take out point, but I think they are more concerned with rafters.
- Lotus Park: Popular lunch spot, I never put in or take out here personally.
- Camp Lotus: You can pay to park here, but this is a great campsite where you can stay for the weekend and use it as a take out to have lunch and get back on the river.
- Greenwood: Popular take out for those without the stamina for the Gorge. Marshall to Greenwood is an excellent beginner run.
- Salmon Falls: The end of the South Fork run after exiting the Gorge. At lower lake levels the paddle out isn't too long since you will be on flat water, but at higher lake levels the paddle can take 20 minutes.

Drop me an e-mail if you'd like more info.....and let me know how it goes!


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