Kayak the American River: Sailor Bar to Harrington Way

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Added by Parrish Frisbee

Below Folsom Lake Dam runs the lower American River, separate from the extreme whitewater of the upper forks that run between Lake Tahoe and Folsom Lake. The lower American River offers much for the average paddler, rafter, or Joe, while also providing a peaceful water-bound getaway in the midst of Sacramento!

Ultimately, the waters from the American River empty into the San Francisco Bay, but for a shorter paddle that still provides excitement, serenity, and even interaction with local wildlife, there is an approximately 10-mile portion between Sailor Bar and Harrington Way. 

If possible, bring two vehicles in order to park at Sailor Bar and be able to drive back up from Harrington upon pull-out. Parking fees are quite cheap for cars, and vehicles with kayaks/canoes. ($5 to park, plus $3 per boat). 

Prime time for most river-goers is in the heat of the day (around 11:30-2:30/3 p.m.). However, to avoid sometimes rowdy group rafts or heavy river traffic it might be better to launch later in the day unless you’re willing to paddle around occasional groups. At the end of May, the weather can still fluctuate, making rainy days possible, but because the river flow is dam controlled you can easily get out and enjoy the water even during a dry spell.  

  1. https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page... : this page gives you an overall checklist on preparing for your paddle no matter how experienced you are, but one of the more important aspects is the chart that provides you a time estimate of your paddle based on the cubic feet per-second that the river flow covers. 
  2. http://www.californiawhitewate... : this will help you figure out the chart from the first page-scroll down and its provides a graph that will estimate for you the flow of the river in cubic feet per-second around that given day. 

In between the curves are more complacent waters where you can sit back and relax, fish, or keep on paddling. 

When you approach the William B. Pond Recreation Area, THIS is where some fun kicks in. A variety of split-offs provide fun down each waterway. There are small sets of rapids that are shallow compared to preceding ones, and each lends its’ own thrill that even the beginning paddler will be sure to enjoy, and their paddling skills put to the test! 

If you do choose the right split off one too many times, you will be carried into a small pond area, but can easily get right back out and hook back on to the main flow of the river about a 1/2 mile down.

Throughout your paddle, blue herons, geese, a variety of ducks, and even the occasional otter are visible. If you look hard enough, you might spot some dens along the bank or small caverns where the inhabitants of the American River have made their homes.

After your paddle you’ll probably be in the mood for some good food and drinks, and the Sacramento area does not fall short, so load your boats and head downtown!  

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