I’m excited to be joining some other California moms today as we share our favorite places to cool off! June is nearly over and summer is in full swing around here. Our weather has actually been crazy lately, the beginning of the month started off down right chilly with a late-season snow storm in the Sierra Nevadas. Then after an intense heat wave (Triple digits in June, what is up Mother Nature?! This is Northern California, not the surface of the sun!) we’ve “mellowed” out at fairly normal June temperatures for the area. Still, there’s only so much time spent inside with the air conditioner that a mom and her four little rapscallions can take, so we’ve been logging a lot of time in our swimsuits. Our community lake, friends’ pools, and our little backyard kiddie pool have been seeing a lot of action, but there’s one place we won’t be able to visit until the end of the summer–the confluence of the American River.
The confluence of the American River is where the North Fork and the Middle Fork of the American River join together near the bottom of the Foresthill Bridge. We actually stumbled on this place by accident last year and it quickly became our favorite spot to splash around. When the water level is low enough there’s a natural stone barrier that creates a nice little lagoon area nearly separating the North Fork from the Middle Fork. This slows the water down making it safer to take little ones. The water is COLD since it is snow melt, but on a hot day at the end of summer it feels great. It’s also crystal clear and you can see all the way to the bottom (in the middle it gets fairly deep), I’m always shocked by how beautiful and clear it is, it almost doesn’t seem real! There’s also really great rock for jumping off of and with the water so clear it’s easy to see where it’s safe to jump.
Some advice if you’re in the area and you want to check it out for yourself:
- First and foremost, always be extremely cautious when you’re swimming in open water. My two older children can swim but they know it’s a rule that they wear life vests if they’re going in past their knees. As I mentioned, this is a swimming hole that is best and most safely enjoyed in later August or even September, especially after a heavy snow year like we experienced this past winter.
- My children are also not allowed near the “mouth” where the water flows over some rocks from the North Fork to the Middle Fork. The water picks up speed a little bit here and the Middle Fork flows much more swiftly than the Northern Fork does (in this area at least). However, it is a large swimming area and there is really no need to go near that end at all.
- Most of the parking is in a fee area because it is maintained by the State Park system. However, if you have a State Parks pass you can park for free. Also, if you get there early enough you can usually find free parking just across the little bridge on Highway 193 because you enter into El Dorado county from Placer county (the American River is actually the dividing line so once you cross it you’re in a fee-free zone).
- You will have a short walk down to the water and the riverbed is quite rocky, water shoes are recommended although not necessary. I don’t think there would be any way to get a stroller or wagon down to the water so keep that in mind.
- Get there early to get the best parking and enjoy the water before it gets crowded in the afternoon. We’re usually one of the first people there and are ready to leave by early afternoon when a lot of people begin to show up.
- Bring sunscreen and/or shelter because there isn’t a whole lot of shade down by the water. We also always bring snacks and water so our kids will be okay to stay awhile.
- There are trash cans and bathrooms up by the parking area but be prepared to pack out whatever you take in. We always try to teach our children to leave an area cleaner than you find it!