Living in California, there’s no shortage of outdoor adventures a short drive away, including skiing in the Sierras and beachside waterfalls. I have a whole list of things I still need to do in my proverbial backyard. One of those items I recently checked off my list was whitewater rafting (also known as white water rafting).
To experience whitewater rafting in California, my friends and I drove a few hours north of the San Francisco Bay Area to the sleepy town of Lotus, California. Here we joined the crew at Action Whitewater Adventures for a half-day, 14-mile ride down the south fork of the American River.
After checking-in, we quickly ate lunch (which consisted of hamburgers and hot dogs). As we were one of around six groups departing at the same time, we didn’t have too much time to finish eating. Luckily, everyone was able to scarf down their meals before we headed to the equipment shed to gear up.
With our gear on, including helmets and life jackets, everyone was grouped up into their respective boats and assigned a guide. We were assigned, Rene, who showed us the ins and outs of rafting for a bit before he had us in the raft. On the American River, Rene proceeded to show us a few more things including how to paddle efficiently.
This particular whitewater rafting experience starts off fairly calm. It ends with class II and class III whitewater rapids. The journey to these harder classes was quite relaxing. Sure, there were a few bumpy spots with class I rapids but, all-in-all, the experience was super pleasant.
I’ll omit some spoilers, but the the tree in the above photo has some significance. It also presented us with anxiety as we managed to get closer and closer to it.
Before long, we were ready to tackle our first class II rapid.
What looks like a relatively small rapid can actually be a doozy.
Note: you will get wet. You may get soaked.
I got soaked on many occasions as I was towards the front of the raft.
Rene allowed each of us to sit on, The Bull, as he called it. The Bull is the front of the raft and quite an adventure to experience. The way the raft moves up and down it really does feel like you’re on one of those mechanical bulls trying to force you off.
After around six hours, our journey was over. Time flew by as we braved the American River rapids with such names as Satan’s Cesspool, Bouncing Rock, and Hospital Bar. As we entered the calmer waters of Lake Folsom, the water temperature became noticeably warmer.
Many adventurers will choose to paddle the rest of the way to the docking point, but we were lucky enough to have jet ski towers around to link up our rafts and tug us along the route to the dock.
Before long, we were back on dry land. We took off our whitewater rafting gear, got a drink to quench our thirst, and waited for a shuttle to take us back to where we started.
On the shuttle, many of my friends just passed out from exhaustion. It was definitely a long day, albeit a fun one. The drive took us about 25 minutes to get back to Lotus.
After cleaning up at camp and checking out the photos members of the Action Whitewater Adventures had taken, we headed out for a sweet treat.
We drove to nearby Placerville, California to visit Boa Vista Apple Orchards. As the orchard was scheduled to close, we quickly ordered apple donuts and blueberry dumplings. Almost as quickly as they came out, we devoured the delicious morsels of fruity goodness. Boa Vista Apple Orchard was the perfect way to end the day braving the whitewater rapids of the American River.
If you’re interested in whitewater rafting in California and close to the Bay Area, I would totally recommend checking out Action Whitewater Adventures. They were professional and made the whole experience both fun and safe for everyone involved. I would also recommend capping it off with a treat from Boa Vista if you can make it there before close time.
A few last tips:
- Wear sunscreen and re-apply often or very thick. There’s a lot of parts where it’s just you, exposed to the sun in the middle of the river.
- Dry bags are amazing. Get one for your phone if you’re interested in taking photos along the way.
- If you bring a Go Pro, be sure that is secure—that is make sure that if someone were to yank it off, it won’t come off. I almost lost my Go Pro after it was washed away in one of the class III rapids. Luckily, it landed right back in the boat.