Just go 100 miles west of Reno, and pull off in Auburn. Take Highway 49 south for 40-miles and you're in the small town of Coloma.
Dozens of outfitters offer different rafting courses down the American River. Whitewater Connection is the outfitter I chose, with a full day down South Fork, the section of the river with one of the longest seasons. My guide Dave Lewis says that's because, "A majority of the rivers especially in California are dependent on spring runoff. So you're going to have April, May maybe into June. But here, because of the dam system we've got water pretty much year round."
First time rafters Lindsey, Shelby and Jacob Call didn't know what to expect. Shelby thinks "it's going to be a lot like Disneyland. The Davy Crocket Explorer canoes. Paddle paddle." Lindsey said her parents told her that rafting was pretty fun and kind of fast. Jacob is the fearless one, "If I fall off a boad I don't really care."
We couldn't take our news camera on the raft, because the rapids get up to a class three -- meaning you're going to get wet... really wet. I was teamed up with the Walker family, also from Reno. Russ Walker says, "We've been here before and it's just one of our favorite places to go."
Lewis says it's not uncommon to run into people from the Truckee Meadows, "A lot of people from Reno, Tahoe, Bay Area. I think there's something like 9-million people between a three or four hour drive -- so a majority of the people drive for the day."
There's something about the river, and the scenery which makes you forget about any stresses. Hop in the water for a swim and enjoy the calm before the storm. Like the Hospital Bar rapid, or Satan's Cesspool.
Lori Walker says the trip is perfect for the day adventurer, "You figure you get here at ten, lasts 'till five, get lunch. It's a really good deal for all the hours you're here. Mmakies it a really good family thing to do."
After spending all day on the American River, it's going to be perfect timing to stop off for dinner. Be sure to pull over in Auburn at Ideda's Tasty Burgers.
So for a round trip: driving 280 miles at $3.94 per gallon with the average car getting 20 mpg, a full day of rafting with lunch and a $6 dinner, you'll spend about $186 dollars. For a full day of fun in the sun with your family: priceless!