The Middle Fork of the American River provides rafters a unique opportunity to experience a wilderness river in the heart of California’s gold-rush country.
From PCWA’s Oxbow Powerhouse to Greenwood Bridge Site - A rambunctious start greets you as you travel directly into a Class III rapid appropriately named “Panic Alley,” followed by three miles of nearly continuous whitewater. You then reach the infamous “Tunnel Chute,” a man-made diversion channel blasted by miners around a century ago. This hydraulic rollercoaster has a 12-foot free-fall, followed by a pinball through a 30-yard underground cavern. You then are allowed a breather to enjoy the picturesque and lush forested canyons, perhaps catching a glimpse of a deer, black bear, otter, bald or golden eagle. Not forgetting to scan the incredibly clean and clear Sierra mountain water for Rainbow and large Brown trout.
The Ruck-a-Chucky rapids are a Class VI terror requiring mandatory portage. Excellent picnic opportunity here. This is followed by a series of thrilling airborne drops and chutes all the way to takeout. You can see why this, until recently, relatively well-kept secret was rediscovered by adventurous whitewater enthusiasts.
The Placer County Water Agency cooperates with the thriving river rafting industry by controlling the flows of water during the rafting season.
To Oxbow Powerhouse Put-in:
Once in Foresthill, take Mosquito Ridge Road to the right to Oxbow, Placer County Redwoods, French Meadows and Hell Hole. Along Mosquito Ridge there are several scenic pull-out areas to view Horseshoe Bar and Tunnel Chute.
Descending the road further, you will cross the curved bridge on the North Fork of the Middle Fork. Trails lead upriver and downriver from here. There were several mining communities along this tributary to the Middle Fork and the legendary Bogus Thunder Falls are upriver as well. Continuing on, make a right at the stop sign onto the road to the Oxbow Reservoir. The other river you see coming in from the east is the remote and rugged Rubicon. Skirting Oxbow, drop down the dirt road to the graded flat gravel bar put-in area, immediately next to the discharge outlet of the Powerhouse.
The North Fork and Lower Middle Fork of the American River - The North Fork of the Middle Fork of the American River and the Lower Middle Fork American River are perfect for gentle and relaxing float trips with gentle rapids and calm pools. Fishing boats rule the waters at French Meadows and Hell Hole for most of the year, but in the warm summer months of July and August water skiing and tubing on French Meadows can be fun. Come on in, the water’s fine.