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South Fork American River Camping

Adventures In The Sierra Nevadas

Camp in Big South Fork National River for free!

Lets Start Your Adventure Here! Make the American River Resort your basecamp for adventures in the Sierra Nevadas. The 40-acre Resort is nestled along the South Fork of the American River, 45 munites north of Sacramento and just south of Lake Tahoe. Escape the Bay Area and a short two and a half hour drive later you could be river rafting down Class 3 rapids with your family or enjoying a relaxing afternoon wine tasting with your friends. Located in the gold rush town of Coloma, the American River Resort is close to world class adventures like the Rubicon Trail, fantastic fishing on the Middle Fork American and epic mountain bike trails. The Gold Rush of 1848 started here are the James Marshal Gold Discovery State Park, only a 5-minute walk from the Resort. Enjoy a morning hike at Cronan Ranch and afternoon float down the Coloma to Greenwood section of the river. There are tons of fun things do in our area, which is why so many world travellers call this area home.

whitewater rafting

The Resort is ideally located on the South Fork of the American River. It is the epicenter for whitewater rafting in the Coloma Valley, with several trips departing at various times daily.

rubicon jeep trips

The Worlds Most Famous Jeep Trail, the Rubicon Trail, is located just a few miles from the Resort. Start planning your Rubicon Trail Adventure with us!

wine tasting


gold discovery

mountain biking


River Tubing

Camping And Lodging Along The River Under A Starry Sky

Anyone you ask has a different reason for camping. Some like to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. Some families go camping to revitalize their relationships away from all the distractions at home. Many youth organizations teach young people how to build a fire, pitch a tent, or read a compass. Camping traditions are often passed on from generation to generation. Some of you who camped as children now camp as parents and grandparents, passing on an appreciation for time spent outdoors. Camping means different things to different people, but it is well established that mental health improves when one spends time outdoors. Face-to-face conversations replace personal technological devices for entertainment. And these shared experiences when camping shape the memories that make up life-long relationships. Camping is a great time to get back to the basics, without lifes daily distractions.

The American River Resort is a spectacular property set amongst almost 30 acres of oak trees rising along the South Fork of the American River. The Resort property offers various camping options, from spacious platform cabin tents set along the river to the more primitive tent sites amongst the trees, from full hook up RV sites to deluxe river cabins with bedrooms, bathrooms, and air conditioning. The Resort offers a wide range of camping options, so you can choose your level of camping or glamping comfort while experiencing all the area has to offer.

River View Camping

South Fork American River Camping

Camping on the South Fork American River is available to all our American River trip rafting guests.

Raft Californias large riverside campground is great for seasonal camping . Our campground is great for tent camping with Glamping options in Canvas Tents. The showers & restrooms were upgraded and brand new for the 2021 season. Reservations booked for our General Campground are not on a per site basis, but feature lots of great options for small groups and private nooks for smaller tents. Guests are allowed to choose their tent camping spaces and Canvas Tents upon arrival.

Most nights our camp host will be on site to greet guests from 4:00pm-8:00pm. There is also a Camp Store with river apparel & various sundries . We do our best to keep full gots of ice water at our Check in Tent for our guests and employees to refill personal water jugs. We do recommend you always have your own at least 24oz. water bottle for any adventure.

Large wheelbarrows to assist in transporting your overnight gear are available at the top of the steps into our camp. We just ask you return them after you have settled in for the next guest.

For half day & one day rafting trip guests:

  • Cost is $15/person for our general camping
  • Group Campsites also available

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Additional Items For Overnight Trips

On South Fork American overnight trips, we stay at campsites where your car is conveniently parked close to your site and bathrooms with hot showers, flush toilets, and electricity make your stay easy and comfortable. Therefore, you can bring as many items as you feel necessary for camping. Your river attire should be packed separately so you can change into it at the Meet Place or put-in.

Packing List

South Fork American River Rafting

Camp #1

The South Fork of the American River offers crisp, clear, refreshing water flowing over spectacular granite rocks and boulders. Its an ideal balance of adrenaline and fun for families with kids as young as eight. We offer half-day trips, full-day trips with lunch, and wildly fun two-day adventures from April September.

Minimum Age: 8 years River Rating: Class III

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Arriving The Night Before An American River Rafting Trip:

Most of our 2 day American River trips include camping at the camp the night before your trip .

  • Arrive between 4:00pm-8:00pm the night before your trip
  • Camp host on site to greet you, sometimes available after 8:00pm
  • If you are scheduled on an overnight trip breakfast is included the first day of your rafting trip

South Fork American River Area Information

About Tributary Whitewater

Tributary Whitewater Tours has been running white water rafting trips in Northern California & beyond since 1978. The company was originally founded by Dan Buckley, an integral player in the development of white water rafting in California. Dan Buckleys love to share the excitement, wonder, and natural beauty that rivers have to offer with others lives on with the current owner, Jeremiah Copper.

Tributary continues to be an industry leader in the west coast rafting industry. We offer more rivers than any other outfitter, giving us the ability to accommodate younger kids down to ages 4 . Our team is one a kind, and everyone in our staff, from guides, to drivers, to the folks answering the phones we all have a passion for what we do.

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What Is This Trip Like Check Availability

Itinerary: Arriving at our private riverside campground the night before your trip, our dedicated camp host will escort you to your assigned camp area, show you the facilities, and answer any questions that you might have about your American river rafting adventure.

The morning of your trip you will be served breakfast at 8:00 AM . After breakfast there is time to relax a little before checking in at 10 AM for the rafting part of your trip.

After a short bus ride to the launching area, your guides will help you with the required river gear and give you a river safety orientation. Then we split up into groups, assign the guides and push off onto the South Fork American river. The trip begins with some bouncy water to warm you up for the afternoon session of big rapids. We stop for lunch where your guides will prepare your riverside buffet lunch. Bathrooms are available during the break.

The afternoon section, called the Gorge Run, begins with some bouncy whitewater and even an out of boat experience through Swimmers Rapid a fun, small wave train that leads to a huge pond to recover in. A fun way to cool off in the hot summer. Then the river builds and enters the Gorge, where the rapids come almost in non stop fashion for 6 miles. Rapids like Satans Cesspool, Bouncing Rock, and Hospital Bar are only a few of the exciting rapids you will encounter in the Gorge.

Whats Provided:

What To Bring:

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The Ultimate All Inclusive California Rafting Adventure

Due to the Covid-19 protocols that will continue during the 2022 season, all bookings made online will be contacted by our reservations team by email and phone. The 2022 Whitewater Rafting Season will start in mid-March and continue through October with excellent recreational water flows. Please feel free to call us to book your trip spaces at 530-642-0804, book directly online, or email

The South Fork of the American River is the premier rafting river in California and one of the most popular rivers in the United States. Located in the heart of the Sierra Foothills smack in the middle of Gold Rush Country, the South Fork of the American is a great way for families, friends, and nervous first-timers to be introduced to the thrills and fun of whitewater rafting in a safe yet exhilarating environment. Enjoy the fun and excitement of rafting with your kids or a group of friends in the outdoors while creating wonderful memories of time spent together on the river. Ideally located, the 21 mile South Fork of the American River offers a Class 3 rafting experience with over 30 exhilarating rapids and a great deal of fun and enjoyment. Whether this will be your first time or you are a whitewater veteran, the South Fork will provide an exciting and thrilling adventure.

When you go rafting on the American River with us, you have several trip meeting options.

Trip Photography Package Option Share your Adventure

How To Get To The American River

EarthTrek Expeditions CAMPING South Fork American Rafting

We offer you a selection of ways to get to the American River. The easiest and most popular means of transportation is to drive your own car. Driving directions are detailed below.

Southwest Airlines offers convenient service to Sacramento from many California and Western cities. Rental cars are available at the airport or if you have a group of 10 or more check with EarthTrek about a van or bus shuttle.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS to the American River

Our South Fork, Middle Fork and North Fork American River trips all meet at the EARTHTREK EXPEDITIONS CAMP in Lotus on the South Fork American. Following are driving directions to our camp.

From Southern California : Take I-5 north to Sacramento and follow the directions below from Sacramento.

From San Francisco Bay Area : Take I-80 east to Sacramento and follow the directions below from Sacramento.

From Redding and the Sacramento Airport: Take I-5 south to Hwy 50 east and follow the directions below from Sacramento.

From South Lake Tahoe: : Take Hwy 50 west over Echo Summit to Placerville. Turn right on Hwy 49 and drive about 9 miles thru the historic gold discovery site in Coloma and cross over the American River Bridge. Past the bridge turnleft at the SECOND DRIVE into River Park Village and follow the road down to our gravel parking lot.

Times and distances are approximate and will vary with traffic, road and weather conditions. Check CalTrans for current road conditions.

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Camping On The North Fork American River

Planning a whitewater rafting trip? There are several options for camping near or on the North Fork American. Primitive designated campsites are available in Auburn State Recreation Area by reservation. Wilderness camping is available by permit only. There are also a few public campgrounds near the North Fork of the American River.

Driving Directions To The South Fork American

Traveling east from the Bay Area and Sacramento on Hwy 50:Take the North Shingle Rd/Mother Lode Dr Exit # 37 , just after Cameron Park. Turn left over the freeway and take the first right onto North Shingle Rd . Travel 10.5 miles until you get to the first stop sign at Bassi Rd.

To get to the All-Outdoors River Center continue straight on Lotus Rd after the stop sign at Bassi Rd. The entrance to our River Center is the second driveway on the left after the River Store. The entrance is marked by a wooden sign and a metal sculpture of a school of fish. Park in the parking area and sign in at the All-Outdoors check-in area under the large oak tree.

Traveling west from South Lake Tahoe on Hwy 50:From Hwy 50 turn right onto Hwy 49/Spring Street in Placerville . On Hwy 49, take the bend in the road to the left and follow the signs to Coloma for 7 miles. Once in Coloma, Hwy 49 passes through Marshall Gold Discovery State Park. Continue straight through the park for a 1/2 mile to the stop sign at the intersection of Lotus Rd and Hwy 49.

To get to the All-Outdoors River Center, turn left at the stop sign onto Lotus Rd in Coloma just before the Hwy crosses over the South Fork of the American River. Travel ¾ of a mile past the small town of Lotus and turn into the All-Outdoors River Center entrance on your right. If you go past our River Office or get to the stop sign at Bassi Rd, you have gone a block too far.

Driving Distances and Times to Meeting Place From:

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Plan Your Coloma Resort Vacation

From cabins and full hookup RV sites to tent sites by the river, we have accommodations to fit solo campers, couples, families and large groups! Explore miles of river front access, You can gold pan, fish, float or book a rafting adventure. Walk from your site to The State Park museum, local hiking and biking trails, and our organic cafe. Watch your Kids meet new friends at our playgrounds, and relax poolside at our swimming pool. With our onsite summer activity schedule, you won’t even have to leave our resort!


A golden flake glittered in the sunlight and the history of the West, the lives of millions of people, and the economy of the world changed forever!

Coloma began with the discovery of gold on January 24th, 1848. This started the greatest human migration ever known – the California Gold Rush!

Gold Pan from your campsite! The Coloma Resort Camp Store sells gold pans and gold vials, and instructional handouts are also available.

Coloma Resort is located in the heart of California Gold Country, adjacent to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. You and your family can take part in a self-guided tour through the historic sites.

Booking your stay is easy!


Tubing is one of our guests’ favorite activities during the summer!

River Sports are some of our guests’ favorite summertime activities!


Camp Lotus Is Open And Taking Reservations For The 2022 Season Call 530

Bacchi Ranch Private Riverside Campground

Reservations for the 2022 season are available. Please call the office or arrive in person to secure a reservation.

Camp Lotus Lodge & Campground lies on the bank of the South Fork American River. A perfect location for weddings, events, gatherings, or simply pitching a tent on soft grass near the river. We strive to provide guests with the unique experience of being immersed in the outdoors while still having some simple comforts, like a muffin and espresso in the morning. Please, come and bike, kayak, raft, hike, or simply find a good tree to read your book under while the river hums nearby. Have dinner with friends sitting around a campfire. Go to sleep under the stars. Wake up with a hot shower, warm muffin, steaming coffee, and repeat.

We have over thirty campsites that fit small families up to large groups, six different cozy cabins, a riverside tipi, ten RV hookup sites, a wonderful open grassy space for events, and a beautiful Event Hall. Within five minutes drive there are hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails. Come give us a try and you just might make it a tradition! To learn more about Camp Lotus please visit the About Us page.

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Camping On The South Fork American River

There are a few options for camping along the banks of the South Fork American River. Many of these are privately owned campgrounds that cater to the whitewater rafting community. Government parks and public lands are generally considered day use only, with a few notable exceptions in the more remote regions of the canyon.

Whitewater Rafting & Kayaking

The 20-mile run from Chili Bar to Salmon Falls features over 20 named rapids and countless waves in between. Its rated Class III at moderate summer flows, but at high water or early in the season should be considered Class III+ or IV. Most paddlers run the river with a commercial rafting company. Outfitters provide the equipment, experienced guides, plus life jackets and other gear, so that you can enjoy the outdoor adventure without the hassle or expense of investing in your own equipment.

Those who decide to invest the time in learning to navigate the river themselves will also find the South Fork a great destination. The 3-mile, Class II Coloma to Lotus stretch is an ideal introduction to whitewater. Intermediate boaters enjoy the increased challenge of the Chili Bar and Gorge runs, and the expert kayakers spend hours perfecting their rodeo moves in the world-famous Chili Bar Hole, First Threat, Maya, and other play spots. Upstream from the Chili Bar stretch, expert boaters can test their skills on the Kyburz stretch, Slab Creek, Ice House, and other runs.

Private rafters and kayakers alike will find lots of information on river conditions, logistics, and local resources in the Resources and Kayaking pages. For more information on what to expect and how to choose an outfitter, see the Rafting pages. After your day on the water make sure to visit one of our companies to see your action shots.

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American River Rafting With Oars

OARS was among the first outfitters to offer American River rafting trips, and more than 50 years later from our riverside Outpost in Lotus, CA, were still at it. Today, the American River, which is easily accessible from Sacramento, Lake Tahoe and the San Francisco Bay Area, is considered the epicenter of California whitewater rafting with abundant opportunities for first-timers and experienced paddlers alike.

Whether youre looking for a day of bouncy, fun in the sun on a South Fork American River rafting trip, you want to spice things up on a Middle Fork of the American River rafting trip, or take on the wild and untamed North Fork of the American River, theres truly something for everyone.

Rafting on the American River is undoubtedly one of Californias top adventures. From short and sweet half-day trips to two-day getaways, explore your options below, grab your crew, and #LetsGoRafting!

Choose your adventure:


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