Lake Tahoe has a fairly mild river to go rafting, kayaking or tubing on in the summertime, but if you are visiting the area and want to do some hard-core whitewater rafting, take a day trip down the mountain to Gold Country and raft the South Fork of the American River.
Rafting the South Fork of the American River — Photo courtesy of Sierra Nevada Photos
The American River runs from the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountain range to Folsom Lake near Sacramento and is California's most popular recreational river. The three forks of the river (South, North and Middle) originate in the Tahoe area. The South Fork is known for its splashy rapids and waves that will soak anyone in the boat. There are about 30 different rafting companies in the area that offer single or multi-day trips along the North, South and Middle Forks, and each trip is sure to expose you and your family to wild rapids, glorious sunshine and green, natural surroundings all presented to you by an experienced river guide.
Rafting Orientation — Photo courtesy of Sierra Nevada Photos
On the morning of your trip, you'll meet up with the W.E.T. group at Camp Lotus and will either raft directly from the park down to Folsom Lake or you will load up on a cool, retro bus for a trip up the mountain to the top of the Fork. The first rapid will be a major test for some. The South Fork's flow is regulated by a local dam and the water that is released is icy cold, even in the middle of summer.
Appropriately, the first rapid you will tackle is called Chili Bar. Depending on your comfort level, the guide will maneuver the raft into a surf rapid that will send 3-4 foot waves over each side of the boat. Other rapids along the trip have names like Satan's Cesspool, the Meatgrinder, Barking Dog, Hospital Bar and Recovery Room.
Chillin' out at Chili Bar — Photo courtesy of Sierra Nevada Photos
Halfway through the trip, your raft and other company rafts will stop for lunch at a river park or beach. Lunches include items like fresh sandwiches and wraps, cookies and fruit. During some calm portions of the river, your group will most likely get into water fights with other rafts and someone might just get dumped out.
A day trip from Lake Tahoe to Lotus, California will take about two hours by car. Take Highway 50 out of South Lake Tahoe and over the beautiful Echo Pass. In about an hour or so, you'll hit Placerville. Take Highway 49 from Placerville to the small communities of Coloma, Lotus and Cool, California.