South Fork 2-day Family Rafting Trip with Gold panning
The Class II-III South Fork of the American River, located in California between Sacramento and South Lake Taho,is the most popular river in California.
The South Fork of the American is perfect for those of you looking for a family rafting trip with easy to moderate, yet exciting rapids.The special gold panning demonstrations, on the banks of the American River in the evening offers everyone the unique opportunity to learn the techniques of gold panning, and maybe go home with your own gold flakes. Our meet time is 10:00am so you have time to drive the 2.5 hours from San Francisco. On the second day you will be ready to depart for your next destination River by 3:00pm.
- 21 miles of river
- 2 days of rafting
- 4 meals (LD/BL)
- 1 night of camping (night during)
- Kids from 7-16 come for half-price.
- Goldpanning demonstrations in the evening
- Hot water showers, flush toilets, pingpong, volleyball, horseshoes
- Wine-tasting during hors d’oeuvres
- Professional guides & instruction, river equipment & shuttles
Our Campground: We have a beautiful campground, large and spacious. There are lots of trees which means that there are many sites that can accommodates groups of all sizes. Very unique to Mariah are our Tent Cabins which are all built on platforms and include deluxe cots, foam pads and deck chairs. Each houses between 2-5 persons with costs, thick pads and deck chairs.
If you are looking to extend your adventure, please consider camping with us an extra night, either before or after your trip. If we already have a dinner or breakfast on the schedule you are welcome to join us. The additional camping and meals are for a small add-on price.
Our Menus: We pride ourselves on the quality and variety of our meals. We can accommodate many different dietary requirements, so let us know if you are vegetarian, need gluten free, or have food allergies such as to peanuts and dairy. Breakfasts include pancakes, sausage, build your own eggburrito, fresh fruit, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and cereals. Lunches include build your own deli sandwiches; at camp we usually have a barbeque lunch.Peanut butter & jelly are always available. Dinners include barbequed steak & chicken, fresh salad, garlic bread, potatoes and dessert.
10:00 AM: Meet, greet, and sign in with your head guide.
11:00-11:30 AM: Launch your boats and begin 3 miles of Class II rapids.
12:00-12:30 PM: Enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the river.
1:00 PM: Continue rafting down river, enter a narrow canyon with more Class II rapids.
1:30-2:00 PM: We will enter the “Gorge” with lots of Class III rapids!
3:00-3:30 PM: We enjoy a boat tow to the Salmon Falls Take-Out; bus ride back to camp.
3:30 PM: Set up your camp, shower, relax, play.
5:15 PM: Enjoy hors d’oeuvres, wine-tasting, camaraderie.
6:00 PM: Enjoy a delicious dinner, slide show, dessert, campfire, and more camaraderie.
Whenever you want: Fall asleep under the stars, in your own tent, in rented tent.
(Quiet hours start 10:00 pm).
Trip Orientation is always very instructional; your head guide takes at least 30 minutes to discuss safety features of the trip and demonstrate paddle techniques. He/she will demonstrate and explain everything you need to know in order to enjoy a safe, as well as fun, experience. You will gain a healthy respect for the river as well as feel secure that you will be okay. You will meet the other rafters on your trip and meet you own guide.
Before lunch we get to float about 3-4 miles on slow current, swim an easy rapid (if you want to), practice our steerage maneuvers, get wet, learn how to paddle as a team, and learn how to laugh, raft down a “water slide”, see gorgeous countryside with thousands of trees and plants on both sides of the river, and lots of birds. Your guide will have lots of tales to share.
We arrive at our private lunch site on the river; we are hungry and happy.
After lunch we board our boats and float 2 miles of Class II rapids in beautiful canyon settings. We then enter the “Gorge” where we'll tackle many fun and challenging class III rapids like Satan's Cesspool, Hospital Bar and Recovery Room. All the whitewater, the excitement, and your smiles are captured by our kayaking-photographers as they take the best shots for viewing back at camp. After the last rapid we will get a motorized tow to our take-out at Salmon Falls on Lake Folsom, load the boats onto our trailers, grab a cold water, and board Mariah's vehicles for a relaxing 30-minute drive back to camp.
Sometimes we have our lunch at the Mariah Campground, and launch our boats after lunch. Usually it is in the later part of the season, mid-August, during the middle of the week. The reason is the water is released from the Chili Bar Dam later than normal due to agricultural and electrical needs, and we want to wait until the water-release reaches our campground before we launch our boats.
Back at camp you may choose to shower, play volleyball, horseshoes, ping pong; walk our unique Nature Trail, sit by the river, read, relax, socialize with old and new friends or shop in the Mariah camp store for a souvenir t-shirt. Around 5:15 P.M., hors d’oeuvres are served and in the Beverage Garden a nice wine-tasting presentation is given by the staff. There is plenty of fruit juice and fresh water available, also. Please feel free to bring your own favorite beverages.
The dinner bell rings about 6:00PM. BBQ steak and chicken, hearty salad, potatoes, garlic bread, coffee, tea, juice and water are served by your guides. Following dinner is the evening slide show, dessert, and campfire. Then it’s off to sleep under the stars or in one of the great Mariah tent-cabins available to rent.
8:00 AM: The breakfast bell rings, calling you to breakfast..
9:00 AM: Promptly at 9AM we board our river vehicles for the 30 minute drive to Chili Bar
10:00 AM: Launch your boats and begin 5 miles of Class II-III rapids.
12:00 PM: Conquer Troublemaker Rapid, the biggest of the river! Have your photo taken as you come through the rapid.
12:30-1:00 PM: Enjoy 5 miles of relaxing Class I-II rapids, & beautiful scenery.
1:00-1:30 PM: Arrive by river to the Mariah Campground and enjoy a BBQ lunch, & slide show.
2:30-3:00 PM: Depart for your next destination.
The day begins at 8:00AM with a delicious breakfast, usually pancakes, sausage, fresh fruit, cereal, juice, fresh coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. However, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate are ready by 7:30AM in Mariah’s unique Coffee Corner.
Promptly at 9:00AM we board our Mariah vehicles for the 30-minute drive to the Chili Bar Put-in, the top section of the river. Chili Bar is named after the Chileans who travelled up from Chili in 1849 to be a part of the Gold Rush of 1849! You already know your guide, and you are already an accomplished paddler, so we launch into the current. The river starts out with exciting rapids so be prepared for a thrill from the beginning. During the first 5.5 miles we will raft through fun and challenging rapids like Meatgrinder, Race Horse Bend, and the Triple Threats. At mile 5.5 we enter Troublemaker Rapid, the largest rapid on the South Fork; hold on to your hat!! After this fun rapid we'll drift and paddle through gorgeous scenery, enjoying the scenic river and calmer rapids.
At one point, we float past a replica of Sutter's Mill, the site where that first gold nugget was discovered in 1848 that started the California Gold Rush of 1849.
Arriving back at Mariah's campground we enjoy a hearty barbecue lunch. You will have time to shop for souvenir t-shirts in our walk-in store, say goodbye to your guides and exchange email addresses with the other participants.
You will be ready to depart exhilarated and refreshed for your next destination by 2:30-3:00PM.
Departures: Thursdays. June 6 through September 5, 10:00am-3:00pm
Trip Difficulty: Beginner Class II-III
Who Should Go: Novice & experienced, Ages 7-97
Type of Raft: Paddle boat, 6-7 paddlers plus a professional guide
- Thursday & Friday: Adult $250 Youth $125 plus 8% River Use Fee
Not Included: 8% River Use Fee, gratuities
Available to Rent: Wetsuits if needed, Tents, sleeping bags & pads