Running rapids near home
Sun News Service
As the Sierra Nevada sheds its winter blanket, rivers swell and options abound for rafting trips in the Lake Tahoe area.
Check out these eight great reasons to get wet this spring and summer.
Originating from Granite Chief Wilderness, the North Fork of the American is the melting pot of Sugar Bowl and Squaw Valley ski resorts. This aquamarine, free-flowing river features plenty of fun, Class IV, pool-drop rapids in a beautiful, densely forested canyon. Each week there’s a new wildflower or fragrant tree in bloom. But rafters have to hurry to catch this gem before the snow melts completely.
The 21-mile stretch of this high-alpine rambling river makes a great two-day family trip. Starting from Hangman’s Bridge just outside of Markleeville, the East Carson’s chocolate waters cut quickly and smoothly through the Toiyabe National Forest and provide excellent views of snowcapped peaks along the way. No doubt the trip highlight is a collection of hot springs about halfway through before the river gives way to high desert, giant cottonwoods and volcanic rock formations.
The North Yuba and its many sections offer springtime rafters a mecca of opportunities. Just south of Downieville, the popular Maytag Class V rapids section gets the heart pounding and whitewater thrills don’t let up until take-out. An optional Class IV wilderness rafting add-on is available upon request and with water levels permitting.
Above Goodyear’s Bar the North Yuba River features a couple demanding, technical and thrilling sections. Rafters ride through Moss Canyon and the notoriously gnarly Rossasco Ravine before taking out at the put-in to the Maytag section. A variety of trip combinations and discounts are available.
When the mercury rises in the mountains, floaters flock to the Upper Truckee River released from Lake Tahoe in Tahoe City. This lazy section of river meanders slowly along Highway 89. Once known as “the place to booze cruise,” Fourth of July floaters might have to wait until taking out at River Ranch before “cracking a cold one.” Alcohol is permitted during non-holiday periods. Raft rental is available in Tahoe City. This section is usually not commercially guided.
Catch one of two express trips (morning and afternoon options) departing daily through the summer on this section of the Truckee River that begins northeast of Truckee. Highlights include Jaws and Bronco rapids near the end of the section.
With just a little bit of driving, Lake Tahoe visitors can access great Class 4 rapids on a remote river canyon deep into the heat of the summer months. Just outside Auburn, in Foresthill, rafters ride the dam-released waters of the Middle Fork of the American through the summer. This long day of rafting features unforgettable drops like the Tunnel Chute, Kanucka, Chunder and Texas Chainsaw.
Coloma, on historic Highway 49, is the heart of California Gold Country and also the heart of California rafting country. An upper and lower section on the South Fork of the American River provides rafters with a variety of fun and exhilarating rapids. Hundreds of outfitters run trips from Coloma and offer everything from half days to overnight trips. The season runs daily through the summer, then weekends-only starting in September.