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San Francisco, CA


Splish Splash on the American River South Fork

Jennifer Ronda

Barking Dog. Satan's Cesspool. Hospital Bar. Bouncing Rock. Ambulance Ride. These all sound like things you want to avoid in any given day. But for Matt and me, we conquered them all yesterday!!! These were just a few of the Class II and Class III rapids we encountered on our whitewater rafting adventure on the South Fork of the American River in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

After collecting our helmet and lifejackets (safety first, last, and always!), and listening to the safety speech and "Rules of the River" from one of the Adventure Connection river guides, we boarded a bus and headed a few miles upriver. There were seven of us who loaded into the raft, and along with our guide, Brian, we set off for our day-long journey down the river.

The initial calm waters gave us the opportunity for some practice paddling. Matt and I were both a bit alarmed to hear the nervousness and despair in our guide's voice as he tried repeatedly to instruct us all on the perfect paddling technique and get us paddling in a perfect synchronized rhythm (hey, don't look at me and Matt...there were two kids under the age of 12 and a Lithuanian who barely spoke English on our raft!). But shortly, we worked out the kinks and were soon sailing through the waters like a well-oiled...raft. The first hour or so was fairly mellow, with only a couple Class II rapids and little paddling required on our parts. Our confidence in our guide, Brian, grew quickly during this time as we saw one raft get caught up on a rock (in what was supposed to be the easy part of the river!), fill up with water, and lose two of its rafters! 

We stopped at the American Connection campground for lunch, then headed out for the second -- and more intense-- part of our river rafting experience. During this part, we power-paddled through Class II and Class III rapids, gently paddled through calm waters, saw beautiful riverside scenery, rafted through gorges, and even saw some river otters! Oh, and got wet...and on some rapids, got very wet. And in Matt's case, got very drenched. He was seated in the front of the raft and blocked a lot of the water from spraying the rest of the rafters (especially me, who was seated directly behind him :-D). Despite the frigid water temperature (the guide estimated it was upper 50's, low 60's), the sprays of water, and yes, okay, sometimes downright drenching!!, felt refreshing given the hot, dry temperatures of the day. 

Despite our initial paddling inadequacy, our raft made it through the day without a serious snag on a rock, we lost no rafters, and did not capsize. The day ended at Folsom Lake, where all the rafts joined together and were transported across the lake via a jet ski.  We boarded the bus, headed back to the campground, changed into dry clothes, and couldn't stop talking about how much fun we'd had. We definitely plan to go whitewater rafting again, and are now ready to conquer Class III and Class IV rapids.