South Fork of the American (Gorge)
|Stretch:||Greenwood to Folsom Res.|
|Difficulty:||Class III to III+|
|Distance:||9 miles, 1 day|
|Flows:||800 - ?000 cfs. Current Dreamflows gauge|
|Gradient:||23 fpm average|
|Put-in:||Greenwood Creek Parking lot|
|Take-out:||Salmon Falls Rd Bridge|
|Shuttle:||15 miles (20 minutes)|
|Season:||Year Round, Dam Release|
For information on rafting the South Fork American please check out:
During the summer months when the reservoir is up and the river levels down, I find that Chili Bar just upstream has more to offer. When the water is down on this section, there is limited play, and the rapids are much easier than those upstream. However, when the winter is in full swing and the river is pelting five thousand or more cfs, and the rapids continue all the way to the take out (as opposed to a mile paddle on the lake) this run is better than Chili Bar. As the water comes up, the rapids become large wave and hole experiences with humorous great catch on the fly playspots. Furthermore, when the rain is really coming down, you nearly never have to worry about this run being too high to run hence making it a great fall back on run for the winter.
- Fowler’s Rock (III). At low flows this rapid is more class III- than III. At high
flows above five thousand this rapid becomes the hardest on the run. The river goes
left around a huge bolder and into a large hole. This hole is then backed up fifty
feet later by the “Rock.” To the left of Fowler’s Rock are rocks, which if the
water is high enough are submerged, to the right is a nice chute. When the water is
up there are two more VERY large holes to avoid, the first on the right then next
on the left.
Upper Haystack (II+). The river curves and drops into large waves and at lower flows a large hole on the left.
- Lost Hat (III-). At low flows there is a very large wave at the crux of this rapid,
it can be avoided if so desired. At higher flows the rapid is a straightforward wave
train. Immediately below is Satan’s Cesspool.
Satan’s Cesspool (III+). The river turns and drops over a ledge. There is a sneak on the far right. Most beginner boaters tend to eddy out on the left just above the drop and then cut in behind the first hole and go over the final drop. At higher flows the first hole becomes massive, and HAS to be avoided.
- Son of Satan (III-). At low flows, this rapid is just a cascade down, cleanest in
the right channel. At high flows large waves continue for a hundred feet.
Scissors (III-). The river splits around a large rock, go left and enter turbulent water, easy to flip if not on top of your game. At high flows this rapid blends with Haystack just downstream.
Lower Haystack (II+). At low flows this rapid is easy, with just a few waves to punch and a hole at the bottom to go right around. At high flows the waves are huge and there is at least on great surf hole or wave that might scare some.
- Bouncing Rock (III-). The river makes a sharp left turn, with water piling up on the
right bank on the turn, which then drops into a hole. To avoid the pile up and hole,
you can hug the inside of the corner and miss it all.
Pre-Op (II+). Good waves just downstream and around the next corner from Bouncing Rock.
Hospital Bar (III). The river enters a easy class II then turns and drops into a large standing wave hole thing, it flushes so don’t worry about heading straight into it, great fun.
Recovery Room (II+). Easy read and run water almost all of which is run down the left side.
- Surprise (III-). When the reservoir isn’t too high, this rapid exists. It is easy to
make it boring by going left of the wave train. To make it fun go into the wave train,
as long as the flow is above 1,400 cfs, there will be a rock that is underwater after
one or two waves, go off of it and launch yourself into the large hole. the hole is
big so drift into it, boof it.
Take out: From highway 50 take El Dorado Hills Blvd. It becomes Salmon Falls road continue on it. Follow it 15 miles or so to the bridge over the river.
Put in: Continue up Salmon Falls Road until you come to Salmon Falls cut off, turn right (if you miss the cut off, you meet up with Highway 49 anyways after a few more hundred feet) and follow 50 feet to highway 49, turn right. Stay on highway 49 until you see the Greenwood parking lot on the right or Lotus depending on where you want to put in.
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