All of the beautiful photos of the American RIver were taken by
Jim first began kayaking with his sister in
2005. A year later, he purchased a sit-in
style model, from a friend who opened a
local kayak retail store.
Over the past
eight years, Jim has paddled in Hawaii,
Florida, and the Caribbean, but he kayaks
mostly on inland waters in Northern
California. Now and then he will travel to
the California coast to paddle.
Buy Kayaking California's Flat Waters
Credit Jim Snyder
It’s no surprise that paddling down the Lower
American River has become a popular pastime for
thousands of Californians. The Lower American River
Watershed originates from Folsom Lake, which was
created by the Folsom Dam. The dam is located about
30 miles east of Sacramento. The American River
with headwaters high in the Sierra Nevadas.
Although it runs through the highly urbanized
Sacramento area, the river is buffered by the
30-mile-long American River Parkway, which runs from
Folsom to the Sacramento River confluence near Old
There are adequate flows released from
the upstream Folsom Lake Dam, so kayaking on the
Lower American River year-round is usually doable.
There are various areas along the river that
paddlers can use to launch and pick up their kayaks.
The River Rat offers a shuttle service Memorial Day
thru Labor Day, midweek and on weekends for a
nominal fee per person. If you come with a group of
friends and want to save a few bucks, at the end of
the trip your driver can take the shuttle back to
the put-in site to retrieve his vehicle, and then
come back and pick everyone else up.
Below Folsom Lake, all forks of the American River
join together. The Lower American River offers 21
miles of Class I & II paddling opportunities for
kayakers with some moving water experience, from
Sailor Bar, downstream from Nimbus Dam, to Discovery
Park where the American River joins the Sacramento.
The Lower American River is not the kind of river
where you're mesmerized by the beauty, but there is
an abundance of scenery along the way.
The banks of the river channel are lined with
cottonwood, valley oak and willow, with occasional
white and box elder, and Oregon ash. After the
discovery of gold, sections of the river were
dredged by the gold mining companies, leaving behind
big piles of cobble and excavated areas. The area
outside of the American River Parkway is a mixture
of agricultural fields, grass and oak woodlands, and
Boating, swimming, rafting, and floating in any
manner on or in the water of the river is prohibited
for a distance of 150 feet downstream from Nimbus
Dam Reversals, currents, and increased flow releases
created by the dam are extremely hazardous.
Motor-powered watercraft are allowed on the river,
except from November 1 through March 15 when they
are prohibited above Hagan Community Park. The
maximum speed limit for the entire Lower American
River is 5 miles per hour.
Sailor Bar is a popular area for launching kayaks
from the north side in Fair Oaks off of
Avenue. The two-mile stretch from Sailor Bar to
Sunrise Boulevard also provides an easy and
leisurely paddle that is less crowded than other
areas downriver. You can put-in on a shady beach
downstream of the bridge at Sunrise Blvd., or
put-in upriver near Folsom dam, at Sailor Bar Park
on the north bank.