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Paddlesports Schools:

Otter Bar Lodge Kayak School
Located in:
Forks of Salmon, CA

More Details
Our Website
Otter Bar offers all skill levels of whitewater kayak instruction based out of our wilderness lodge on California's pristine Salmo (more...)
site home  :: self guided home  :: U.S. river guide  :: California River Trips  :: North Fork American River California

Kayaking & Canoeing North Fork American River California

Generation Gap
Put-in:  Tadpole Creek
Take-out:  Colfax-Foresthill Road
Difficulty:  Class IV, V
Length:  12.3 miles
Giant Gap
 photos of Giant Gap  map of Giant Gap
Put-in:  Eucre Bar
Take-out:  Colfax-Iowa Hill Road
Difficulty:  Class V
Length:  14 miles
Chamberlain Falls
 photos of Chamberlain Falls  map of Chamberlain Falls
Put-in:  Colfax-Iowa Hill Road
Take-out:  Colfax-Foresthill Road
Difficulty:  Class III, IV+
Length:  4.8 miles
Ponderosa Way Run
 map of Ponderosa Way Run
Put-in:  Colfax-Foresthill Bridge
Take-out:  Ponderosa Way Bridge
Difficulty:  Class II+ 500-1,500 cfs
III >1,500 cfs
Length:  5 miles


There are four great runs on the North Fork of the American River, ranging from heart pounding Class V, to mellow Class II near the Clementine Reservoir. The gorge is steep and deep, so it is easy to get the feeling of a wilderness experience even though Interstate 80 runs towards Lake Tahoe just a few miles from the top of the ridge. Polished granite boulders, dramatic drops, and aqua-colored water characterize the scenery of the North Fork.

The upper section, Giant Gap, is class V and due to the difficulty can only be rafted at specific river levels. The middle section, Chamberlain Falls, is class IV and has a larger window of opportunity for boating trips. The lower section, called Ponderosa Way is much more mellow and is suitable for beginners.

This river has become very popular with kayakers as the sport has increased in popularity, and it might be one of the one of the most frequently run rivers for hard-boaters in the state. The season to run this river is very short, sometimes starting and ending in April. It usually peaks late April or early May.