Everyone knows the American River (gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, launching the Gold Rush). In summer almost everyone with an inner tube or raft bumps down one of its watery forks. Afterall, the South Fork American (less turbulent than the North and Middle Forks) is the most popular stretch of whitewater in California. It has history, scenic beauty, and exciting rapids to get your heart pumping no matter how many times you've ridden this stretch of river.
In winter, the river flows fastest; by summer things slow down, but there’s still plenty of zip along the South Fork. And where it doesn’t rock the boat, you can spin lazily beneath blue sky ringed by green and gold foothills. And those rapids? There's a parade of them through the steep canyon - the Gorge, not to mention the standing waves and growling holes of the Triple Threat rapids.
The South Fork makes a great first-time rafting experience, though all river trips should be approached with caution and respect. You can find the list of Whitewater Outfitters here (list updated yearly). You haven’t lived until you’ve fallen asleep to the sound of the river splashing nearby.