Hospital Bar Rapid: Class IIIPosted August 24, 2012 by Lenka Bostian
The fan-favorite Hospital Bar Rapid is remembered by many as the highlight of their rafting trip on the Lower “Gorge” Section of the South Fork American River. This splashy Class III+ rapid caps off an awesome day of whitewater, and, as people are quick to notice, it lives up to its reputation (and no, it doesn’t send you to the hospital, it’s just really, really fun).
The Rapid Play-by-Play
Here is how it goes: After a calm pond, the pace of the current picks up steadily as the river takes a sweeping left turn. Waiting at the bottom, sitting just off the right bank, is a big curling wave. As you enter the rapid, your guide will likely have your crew forward paddling to gain momentum and charge the waves at the top of the rapid.
By the time you hit the curler, you are at maximum speed. The raft takes a sudden dip and goes crashing through the big wave. A wall of water blankets the raft. Then you pull a right turn as the river takes a sharp right bend, and you coast by (or sometimes bump into) the “parking garage” aka the “catcher’s mitt”… a rock that’s looking to catch a hold of your raft. Looking back upstream once you are through, you can really notice the gradient and the quick loss of elevation that produces this fun, fast, bouncy rapid.
A Lasting Memory
Typically, a professional photography company takes pictures of all rafts going through Hospital Bar Rapid. There are always a few shots of your raft disappearing beneath the crash of whitewater followed by a few shots of shocked, ecstatic, smiling faces. You can look for your photos online after the trip and purchase them directly from the photo company to keep a lasting memento of the excitement this infamous rapid delivers.