The Middle Fork of the American is a legendary gold rush river, and it is said that more gold has been found in the Middle Fork canyon than in any other. During the height of the gold rush, forty-niners made claims on almost every square foot of the river. One of the most interesting historical sites is Horseshoe Bend, where the river once flowed 3/4s of a mile around a steep granite ledge. Miners blasted through the granite to divert the river, which has become Tunnel Chute, a cascading spillway that continues for 100 feet and then dips through a boatable tunnel.
The Middle Fork rises from the west side of the Sierra crest, west of Squaw Valley. Its principal tributary, the Rubicon River, drains the northern part of the Desolation Wilderness. Even though it is only 140 miles from the Bay Area, the river remains uncrowded with boaters, mostly likely because the shuttling is long and slow and there are a number or portages.
The rapids on this river are either difficult and dangerous Class IV+ drops or mellow Class I and II rapids. Much of this river runs through private land and although the public is allowed to boat on navigable rivers, if you have to portage, stay close to the water.