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Down a Lazy River

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-Article as seen in Sunset Magazine, May 2000

-by Christopher Tritto
Lower Middle Fork American

Lower Middle Fork of the American River

Navigating the American's clear green waters, you'll feel like one of the first forty-niners arriving to strike it rich in Gold Country. Accessible only by a few rough dirt roads and unblemished by development, the wooded river valley provides a welcome escape from nearby civilization and far less boat traffic than the popular South Fork of the American near Coloma. After putting in at Greenwood Bridge, guide Jim Anderson transports rafters back in time, spinning tales of the California Gold Rush. Along the way, he also points out colorfully named sandbars where mining camps once stood. Though there are few remnants, century-old piles of tailings and occasional scars in the {short description of image}hillsides are evidence of mining days. As we drift downstream on a gentle current enlivened by mild waves, Anderson points out fig trees, planted by Chinese miners, that now mingle with second-growth oaks and conifers along the banks. We search the sky for golden eagles. The sandy bank and smooth river rocks at Cherokee Bar offer a serene setting for a picnic lunch; there's time to try our luck panning for gold or fishing for rainbow trout. Just below Poverty Bar, a small, spring-fed waterfall rewards a shady side hike up American Canyon. Splashing under the falls, we pick wild blackberries before floating the final stretch to Mammoth Bar.

WHERE: This 7-mile float starts near the town of Foresthill on Foresthill Rd., 17 miles east of Auburn on I-80.

WHEN: Seven days a week, April - October.

CONTACT: All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting; (800) 247-2387 or www.aorafting.com.

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