North Fork of the American

Class IV+
9.3 miles
1000 cfs - 3000 cfs
35 ft/mi
Iowa Hill Road
Ponderosa Way
March to June

The North Fork of the American is the classic Class IV run in California. It is best known for its crystal clear water, challenging rapids, and spring wildflowers. The North Fork is a free flowing river above this run, so the flow is entirely dependent on weather and snowpack. With a good snowpack, this run has reliable flows usually from mid-March through mid-June. If this run had reliable flows throughout the summer, it would be the most popular whitewater run in the state.

The River

The North Fork starts with nearly continuous whitewater including the Class IV rapids Slaughter's Sluice and Chamberlain Falls which come in the first mile. The rapids Tongue and Groove, Zig-Zag, Achilles' Heel, Bogus Thunder, Grand Slalom, and Staircase are all fun Class IV rapids which occur in the first four miles.

Just below staircase is a wonderful lunch spot at Indian Creek on the left. Below Indian Creek the rapids are mostly Class II and III until take-out at Ponderosa Way or Lake Clementine.

If you're interested in pictures and the perspective of an inflatable kayaker, check out Creekin's North Fork American description. For more information about the American River system, check out the American River Rafting Page.


To reach the Ponderosa Way Bridge from Sacramento (put-in): Get yourself on Interstate 80 East and head towards Reno. You'll want to take the Weimar Cross Road exit which will be about twelve miles past Auburn. Take a left on Canyon Way and then a right on Ponderosa Way. You'll travel on dirt and paved roads down to the Ponderosa Bridge where you can park a car along the road before the bridge.

To reach Iowa Hill Bridge from Ponderosa Way Bridge (take-out): Get yourself back onto Interstate 80 East and drive to Colfax where you should take the main Colfax exit. Veer to the right and take a right onto Canyon Way which is a frontage road. You'll see a Chevron station at the intersection which is a great place to meet the bros, get a Cliff Bar, or use the restroom. You'll travel down Canyon Way for about a quarter of a mile and take a left onto Colfax-Iowa Hill Road. Take this down to the famous Iowa Hill Bridge. Commercial companies put in on the right before the bridge and private boaters park on the left at the campground after the bridge.



Outdoor Adventures, UC Davis

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Whitewater Connection

Whitewater Excitement

Disclaimer: River descriptions and classifications may change due to natural events that may create new hazards or flows. C-W-R advises that any paddler that uses this site be additionally informed by seeking out local news and updates for changes on this river.

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