From South Lake Tahoe to Folsom Lake the South, Middle and North Forks of the American River, as well as their tributaries carve the gorges of the stunning Sierra Nevada Foothills. El Dorado County is 1,805 square miles of rolling hills, winding rivers and mountainous terrain, filled with history and outdoor adventure.
The South Fork American River, one of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in country, begins its course in Desolation Wilderness, on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Northern California, and continues into Folsom Lake, east of Sacramento, where it meets with the North Fork American River. With easy access and rapids ranging from Class II to Class V, there is something to offer any boater. Since the discovery of gold along its banks in the town of Coloma in 1848, the South Fork has been a draw for thousands of men and women from across the globe, forming part of a colorful history that continues today.
The original inhabitants of the abundant Coloma Valley were the Nisenan people, part of the larger Maidu group, who called the place Cullumah, meaning “beautiful.” Some of the grinding stones used by the Nisenan can still be seen today in the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. As white settlers started arriving in the 1830’s and 1840’s, they needed lumber for building, and the Coloma Valley was full of straight pine trees and water power for milling. It was at John Sutter’s sawmill in January 1848 that James Marshall found the first flakes of gold in the water, and from there the California Gold Rush was born. As the news spread, hopeful miners came in from all parts of the world—Chile, Peru, China, the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii), Australia, the European continent—to seek their fortune. The peak year for gold production occurred in 1853, and in the years following some miners returned to their homes, while others remained in California to begin a new life.
In addition to the amazing whitewater and rich history found on the South Fork American, the surrounding El Dorado county is an agricultural mecca, producing some of the best wines in California, in addition to orchards, berry, and dairy farms. Hiking and mountain biking in “The Foothills of the Sierras,” not to mention excellent snow in the winter, are all part of the reason that so many people choose to call this place home.