Day 2 of Adventure Week consists of an all day raft ride down the Middle Fork of the American River. Our guides today are Sam and Courtney, two wonderful young people whose knowledge of the river and history of the area is as rich as the canyon we are in.
The middle fork of the American River runs class III and IV rapids with a portage past a class VI. The section of the river that we raft down is about 18 miles and starts out with a “Good Morning” rapid that splashes you with icy water first thing in the morning. Soon after, we encounter the “Tunnel Chute.” Blasted out by gold miners back in the 1800s to divert the river away from the famous Horse Shoe Bend, the river is squeezed into a 12-foot cascading spillway that continues for 100 feet. Then the river flows underground through a raftable tunnel.
Once it has emerged from the tunnel, the Middle Fork races over five miles of rapids, climaxing in “Kanaka Falls,” a class IV maelstrom that tests each of us to the fullest.
The river then mellows and enters a quiet side where we have a chance to relax and enjoy the scenic side of the Middle Fork. These are a series of easy class II rapids and we even get to take our helmets off. We stop for a wonderful lunch and relax and take in the natural beauty of the canyon.
Near the end of the quiet side, the silence is interrupted by a deafening roar. The final stretch of river begins with a sharp 5-foot drop and an intricate portage of an unrunnable Class VI waterfall. We end in a long succession of exciting Class III-IV rapids.
The river run is full of exciting rapids at the beginning and the end, but the middle is quite mellow. Its a nice addition to Adventure Week, but not up to the thrill level of bungee jumping, although it was quite fun and I met a number of wonderful people.