Lake Tahoe Rafting — Eight Great Rivers Within Three Hours of Tahoe

By Tahoe Staff | Thursday, January 21, 2016

As the Sierras shed their winter blankets, rivers swell and options abound for Lake Tahoe rafting trips. Check out these eight great reasons to get wet this spring and summer.

Spring Flings

North Fork of the American River, Chamberlain Falls Section

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, pool-drop, Class IV rapids in a beautiful, densely forested canyon. Each week there's a new wildflower or fragrant tree in bloom, but hurry to catch this gem before the snow melts completely.

East Fork Carson River, Markleeville to Minden

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 snow-capped 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.

Lower North Yuba River, Maytag Section

The North Yuba and its many sections offer springtime rafters a mecca of opportunities. Just south of Downieville, the popular Maytag Class V rapids get the heart pounding, and the whitewater thrills don't let up until take-out. An optional Class IV wilderness rafting add-on is available upon request, water levels permitting.

Upper North Yuba River, Moss Canyon and Rossasco Ravine

Above Goodyear's Bar the North Yuba River features a couple of 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.

Summer Specials

Upper Truckee River, Tahoe City to River Ranch

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 on the Fourth of July, floaters might have to wait until taking out at River Ranch before cracking a cold one. Alcohol is permitted only during non-holiday periods. Raft rental is available in Tahoe City. This section is usually not commercially guided.

Truckee River, Boca to Floriston

Catch one of two express trips (morning and afternoon options) departing daily through the summer on this section of the Truckee River, which begins northeast of the town of Truckee. Highlights include Jaws and Bronco rapids near the end of the section.

Middle Fork of the American River

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 of Auburn in Foresthill, rafters ride the dam-released waters of the Middle Fork of the American throughout the summer. This long day of rafting features unforgettable drops like the Tunnel Chute, Kanucka, Chunder and Texas Chainsaw.

South Fork of the American River

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 overnights. The season runs daily through the summer and weekends only starting in September.