American River North Fork below Shirttail near Auburn
This is a very scenic beginner run thru a deep forested canyon. All the toughest rapids appear at the beginning and near the halfway point, so be prepared. If you do this run in conjunction with the Bear River, make sure to do the Bear first, so you have some practice under your belt. Superb wilderness camping is available below the halfway point, if you are willing to carry overnight gear. Be sure to jump on this run when the flow is right, because snowmelt gives out at some point in early summer. At lower flows the water has a beautiful green color, but progress can be slow, and below 400 cfs you might need to drag your boat thru some shallow rapids.
Unfortunately the Upper Clementine take-out is closed for the winter (thru April), so in that case you either have to take out at Ponderosa Way, or paddle 2.5 miles across a reservoir to the Lower Clementine access. It takes less time to run the shuttle over Foresthill bridge and float Ponderosa to Lower Clementine, than it does to drive down Ponderosa Way. Personally I would not do this trip when Clementine access is closed. All access points require fee payment, but a season pass is available.
Upstream is the Chamberlain Falls run, a popular raft and kayak trip that sometimes finishes at Yankee Jim Road bridge, your put-in. Usually commercial rafters continue down to Ponderosa Way bridge, because they have dedicated shuttle drivers who are paid for the painful drive down rutted, unmaintained Ponderosa Way. The Chamberlain run makes an excellent winter run for advanced kayakers.
To reach take-out, turn east from interstate 80 onto Foresthill Road and cross the high bridge, built years ago for (hopefully now defunct) Auburn reservoir. Drive 6 miles from Auburn, past Old Auburn-Foresthill road, which descends to highway 49 and the middle fork canyon. Turn left onto a dirt road marked Upper Clementine, which descends to the head of Clementine reservoir. This gated access is open only during summertime, starting in April or May. If closed, you must take out at Ponderosa Way or Lower Clementine. The gate closes at dark, but I don't believe cars will be towed or ticketed if parked overnight.
To reach put-in from there, return uphill to Foresthill Road, then return to interstate 80 in Auburn. Go north about 12 miles, take one of the Weimar exits, and drive north on Canyon Way to its intersection with Yankee Jim Road (a sign reads “Foresthill 13 miles”) where you turn right. Descend steeply, soon on dirt road, to a narrow bridge across the river. It is also possible to reach the put-in by means of Spring Garden Road and Yankee Jim Road on the south side. Ponderosa Way can be reached from Canyon Way, south of the Weimar business district.
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Map of Rivers