Tunnel Chute Rapid – Middle Fork of the American River

Posted January 1, 2021 by Diane Campbell

Tunnel Chute is perhaps the best-known highlight of the thrilling whitewater ride that is the Middle Fork of the American River. This rapid is famous for its dramatic 80-foot chute and exhilarating six-foot drop, which ends with a victorious float through the majestic 90-foot rock tunnel. You won’t have much time to prepare for this Class IV+ rapid once you start your Middle Fork rafting trip. Therefore, here’s a preview of what you can expect to get yourself ready.

What is Tunnel Chute?

Unlike most other river features, Tunnel Chute is a human-made rapid. In the 1860s, gold miners created a tunnel in the granite mountainside to divert the river flow so they could more easily access the gold that had settled in the river’s horseshoe bend. As a result, not only did the forty-niners gain a lucrative spot for gold panning and mining, but they also created this spectacular rapid that rafters enjoy today. Read more about the connection between California Gold Rush and whitewater rafting on the American River.

Tunnel Chute Rapid on the Middle Fork American

What can I expect when we get there?

All Middle Fork of the American River trips get underway quickly as soon as the rafts leave the shore. After several Class III rapids early on, we get to Last Chance, the entryway to the infamous Tunnel Chute. When time permits, All-Outdoors guides and guests take a walk to the edge of the cliff above Tunnel Chute. There we have a chance to look down on this amazing rapid before running it. Whether we stop to look or not, guides prepare rafters for this thrilling plunge before we are pulled into its descent. A professional photographer perched on the rocks usually takes photos to create mementos for each crew riding down the chute.

Paddle High Five After a Successful Tunnel Chute Run

All-Outdoors on the Middle Fork American

Nothing compares to completing a challenge like Tunnel Chute and then enjoying a peaceful float in the natural splendor of this beautiful 2000-foot deep river canyon. Whether you’re looking for an intense day of hitting the Middle Fork rapids or a more leisurely trip with camping and hiking, we have you covered. All-Outdoors offers action-packed 1-Day trips, as well as adventure-filled 2-Day, and 3-Day trips. These overnight trips allow for more time to explore and enjoy the secluded Middle Fork American River canyon.

There is no doubt Tunnel Chute plays a major role in making the Middle Fork of the American one of the most popular rafting rivers in California. See what other rafters have to say about this see-to-believe rapid on our Middle Fork reviews page.


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