[VIDEO] Top 5 Rapids on the Middle Fork American River

Posted July 6, 2023 by Jack Armstrong: grandson of founder George Armstrong
View time: 2.5 mins

One of the best wilderness rafting rivers in California, the Middle Fork of the American features world-famous Class 3 and 4 rapids inside a 2000-foot deep canyon. This river is just a short drive from Sacramento, yet is completely remote. Come along, as we explore the top 5 rapids on the Middle Fork!

Number 5: Chunder

The Class 4 rating for this short and abrupt rapid comes from an exciting six foot drop at the top. Paddlers line up their raft, then get down to ride out the plunge. Crewmembers must quickly get back into position, as Ruck-A-Chucky Falls lies just below.

Number 4: Ruck-A-Chucky Falls

Coming in at number 4 is the infamous Ruck-A-Chucky Falls. Instead of running this Class 6 rapid in the rafts, guests hike around it on the shore and watch our guides send the boats down empty. “Why?” you ask? Well for starters, it’s a 30-foot waterfall that cascades over sharp, shallow rocks. Ruck-A-Chucky portage is quite the spectacle and a highlight of each trip.

Number 3: Kanaka

This technical Class 4 rapid will put your crew’s skills to the test. It’s got drops, rocks, bumps, and waves, and is a great example of what makes California’s rapids so famous.

Number 2: Bus Crash (aka Lettuce Hole)

Second place goes to Bus Crash (aka Lettuce Hole). Rafts navigate this Class 4 rapid through a shallow entrance, before paddling between two large rocks and into a wave train at the bottom. Run this rapid well, and you’ll have a blast. Make a mistake, and you’ll know where this rapid got its name from!

Number 1: Tunnel Chute

Our top rapid on the Middle Fork is undoubtedly Tunnel Chute. This legendary Class 4+ rapid was created by Gold Rush miners, who blasted a narrow chute and a wide tunnel through a mountain to divert the river and access large gold deposits. It’s an absolute roller coaster! After lining up at the top, paddlers sit in the bottom of the boat to enjoy the ride. After the final drop, the river calms down and rafts continue through the river tunnel toward more adventure ahead. 

The Middle Fork has many other memorable rapids that can be enjoyed on a 1-Day, 2-Day, or 3-Day wilderness trip. If you have yet to explore this California whitewater gem, book your Middle Fork American River trip now to find out which rapid is your favorite!

Author Bio

Jack Armstrong

Jack grew up 35 minutes from AO headquarters, and is the grandson of our founder, George. His education includes a film degree and art studies from Biola University, as well as lots of experience breaking camera gear outside. After graduating college, he started an outdoors/action sports focused production company and is largely responsible for our video, photo, and social media content. Jack’s favorite trip is the Cal-Salmon, because of the river’s awe-inspiring beauty and the sweet rapids. When he’s not rafting or playing with cameras, Jack can be found skiing, surfing, visiting art galleries, or eating tacos.


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