North Fork American River – Thrills & Beauty

Of the three forks on the American River, the North Fork is by far the most challenging and possibly, the most beautiful.

North Fork American - Royal Gorge

Royal Gorge

Whether your visit is to raft the Class IV+ whitewater, hike some of the most technical and scenic trails in our area, fish the crystal clear waters for some gorgeous rainbow trout or camp in the wilderness, the North Fork does not disappoint.

Given Wild and Scenic Status in 1979, the North Fork American spans a little over 38 miles total.  Beginning at an elevation of 8000 feet at the crest of the Sierras, the first stretch of the North Fork is called Generation Gap.  Its 12 miles of steep, wild, Class V whitewater and pure adrenaline.  Following Generation is Giant Gap, 14.5 miles of Class III and IV rapids, this section and the above Generation Gap, is primarily rafted by private and expert boaters.

However, there is another part of the North Fork that provides the same exciting rush, and breathtaking scenery for the rest of us.  It is the most popular section and is called Chamberlain Falls.  This 9.5 mile stretch of thrilling whitewater runs from Iowa Hill Bridge to Ponderosa Way, averaging 36 ft per mile.

Rafting the North Fork with American River RecreationThe rapid which the section is named after; Chamberlain Falls starts this free flowing run off with a Class V sheer drop into a pool of rushing water.  You’ll experience the popular Staircase and Bogus Thunder rapids before continuing downhill to take out through Class II & III rapids while viewing some of the most spectacular scenery; green foliage, springtime flowers, pine, oak and alder trees, staggering boulders and some of the most diverse wildlife in North America.

View from Wabena Falls

View from Wabena Falls

Experienced hikers can appreciate the challenge and beauty of the Euchre Bar Trail.  Although, there are several access trails to the river, Euchre Bar has direct access to the river, a footbridge that crosses the river at the bottom, a path to the Wild River Segment and remarkable views of Giant Gap.

American River Recreation runs one day and two day double run and combo trips through the Chamberlain stretch of the North Fork from Spring to early Summer when the begins to melt and flows are ideal.  If you’re looking to build on your prior rafting experience, be sure to include the North Fork in your plans for this season, it’s one not to miss!

*All Photos Courtesy of Thomas Perkins