The Wild Middle Fork AmericanPosted June 22, 2021 by Emily Vernizzi, river enthusiast and Armstrong cousin
California is BACK! With the state freshly “re-opened,” we’re so jazzed to get back to roaming freely again. We all want to go far and wide, but we really don’t have to travel far to feel a world away. Less than three hours from the busy Bay Area, we’re blessed with a heck of a hideaway in the canyon of the Middle Fork of the American River – no planes required!
Being as gorgeous as it is accessible, it’s easy to understand why the Middle Fork is California’s most popular wilderness rafting experience. You’ll lose track of time while surrounded by 2000’ forested canyon walls, cruising on clear water fresh from the Sierras – it’s some of the best scenery the Sierra Nevada foothills have to offer.
A trip for athletic first timers and seasoned rafters
Even though we’re in a drought, we’ll still be riding reliable, dam-controlled whitewater all throughout the summer. The river starts and ends HOT with Intermediate Class III-IV rapid excitement, bookending a calmer, beautiful stretch of Class II cruising where you can kick your feet up and soak up the scenery. Athletic, adventurous beginners are in for a fantastic introduction to whitewater rafting, while experienced rafters will still be well chuffed by the Class IV drops and beauty of the canyon.
More than just a river full of rapids
A 1-Day Middle Fork trip is a quick taste of what the canyon has to offer, but a 2- or 3-Day trip is basically Chicken Soup for the Post-Pandemic Soul. The longer trips allow time to seek out some hidden gems with hikes up side creeks to waterfalls and swimming holes. You’ll put your headlamps to good use exploring a pitch-black mine left open since the days of the Gold Rush. And you’ll get a chance to try your hand at kayaking during the calmer sections of the river – a surefire way to make a Class II rapid feel like the Big Kahuna.
An uncrowded wilderness area to relax in and enjoy
The government issues limited rafting permits to keep the canyon pristine and uncrowded – aside from a couple other boats, the only folks you might see are the very occasional hikers. Your group will overnight on private sandy riverside beaches with some of the brightest stars ya ever did see. (Psst – there are even private compost toilets! A river luxury.) Lounge around at camp, do some fishing or gold panning, join me for a swim since I pretty much never get out of the water, and leave the cooking to the All-Outdoors guides. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which they do better – style it down rapids or hit home runs with the camp meals!
A trip and experience not easily forgotten by anyone
AO has been running trips on the Middle Fork since 1981, so you can be sure we’ll put on a good show. Even after decades running the same 16 miles, each AO crew member brings their own personal flair, experiences, and surprises to keep every trip downriver unique.
We can finally see the light at the end of this long COVID tunnel, so now let’s head into something a little more exciting: Tunnel Chute! I couldn’t wrap this up without a mention! Being one of the most recognizable rapids anywhere, this highlight is just one of the many reasons to raft down the Middle Fork of the American River with us this summer.
If you must still use Zoom, may it be to gather the crew for an All-Outdoors rafting trip. See you on the river!