Tunnel Chute Rapid – Middle Fork of the American River

Posted January 1st, 2021 by Diane Campbell

Tunnel Chute is perhaps the best known highlight of the thrilling 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. Once you’re on the Middle Fork, you don’t have much time to prepare for this Class IV+ rapid. Here’s a preview of what you can expect.

What is Tunnel Chute?

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. The site became a lucrative spot for gold-rush miners and created the spectacular Tunnel Chute rapid that we enjoy today.

What can I expect when we get there?

The Middle Fork trip gets underway quickly, with just a couple of Class III rapids before Last Chance, the entryway to Tunnel Chute. All-Outdoors requires all of our guests to walk to the edge of the rocks above Tunnel Chute to see what they’re committing to before taking it on. Our guides encourage everyone who is up for it to ride the rapid and those who are not to walk around it and meet the raft at the other end of the tunnel. Our guides prepare rafters for the challenge.  Instructions are given to get low in the raft and hang on to avoid the sharp rock walls. This also increases the chances of everyone staying on board while going down the chute because “swimming” this rapid can be difficult.

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 1-Day, 2-Day, and 3-Day trips on the Middle Fork American.

See what other rafters have to say about this see-to-believe rapid on our Middle Fork reviews page.


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