Hike-in Required
No
Open Year-round
Yes
Water Temperature
52.00 °F (11.11 °C)
Sensitive Habitat
No
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Once the summer heat settles over the Sacramento area, one popular activity is to head to the American River for an afternoon float day on the lazy meandering rapids. The float is so popular that floaters have developed their own culture, and those heading downriver can expect to see plenty of drinking along with a playful soaking from the water guns of other reveling floaters.

Much of the lower river is bordered by parks, allowing floaters to pick their starting and endpoints based on the amount of time they'd like to spend on the water. We chose putting in at Sunrise Recreation Area because it's easy to access—just below the Sunrise Blvd bridge—and has plenty of parking. Parking at most riverside parks, including Sunrise, is $5 per vehicle, and because of the length of the float, floaters should plan on taking two vehicles to shuttle from the end back to the beginning, or to have floaters wait with the gear while someone takes a rideshare to pick up the car from the start point.

River Bend Park, also called Goethe Park, makes a popular exit point as the bike path bridge crossing the water makes the park easy to locate, and a large grassy shady park has plenty of tables, bathrooms, and barbecue grills for a post-float picnic. Depending on flow and any stops made, Sunrise to River Bend will take about 3.5 to 4.5 hours.

Along the way, you can expect to see a wild boisterous crowd of floaters. Alcohol (with the exception of certain weekends) and water guns are the norm. While the water is cold due to being runoff from the Sierras, Sacramento's summer days that often top 100 degrees make the water comfortable and may make you want to pull over to swim in the deeper areas.

Tips for floaters:

  • Look into pumps that can be powered with batteries or car lighter adapters to significantly make the inflation process go quicker. 
  • Sunblock is a must, but also consider a longsleeve shirt and hat, as well as footwear to make walking over the rocky river bottom much more tolerable.
  • Alcohol is permitted, however, it is temporarily restricted between Watt Avenue and Hazel Avenue during the Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day weekend.
  • No glass containers are permitted on the river or in parks at any time.
  • Dry bags and coolers are great additions for bringing along gear that you want to keep dry and/or chilled.
  • Bringing paddles may help avoiding snags, paddling out of eddies, or for making your way to the river banks.
  • There are a couple small rapids, but all are generally easy to navigate. Life jackets are always a good idea.
  • If floating on a weekend, definitely expect crowds and a floating party. Weekdays are a better choice for finding the waters a little less crowded and boisterous.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

$5.00

Motors Allowed

No

Difficulty

Easy / Class A

Pros

Great for most ability levels.

Cons

Can get crowded! Wear sunblock!

Pets allowed

Allowed with Restrictions

Total Distance

6.00 mi (9.66 km)

Put-in location (lat, long coordinates)

38.632026, -121.270254

Take-out location (lat, long coordinates)

38.596344, -121.330457

Features

Family friendly
Picnic tables
Fishing
Rental facilities

Trail type

Shuttle

Shuttle required

Yes

Portage required

No

Suitable for

Kayaks
Rafts

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Sacramento + Davis Metro Area, California
Sacramento + Davis Metro Area, California

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