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The Middle Fork of the American River. It's big. It's loud. And it's wild.
It’s also one of the only rivers where rafters are forced to raft underground.
The rapid is called "Tunnel Chute" and if you want to see it up close, you may want to hitch a ride with Iowa Sherry, river guide with Sierra Whitewater.
“This is not a little rapid. This is big! Definitely one of a kind," said Sherry.
Tunnel Chute is about seven miles from Foresthill in Placer County, but the only way to see it is on a raft. That's because the land surrounding the rapid is a private mining claim.
"[The year] 1865 is when they really hit this river hard for gold," Sherry told ABC10.
Tunnel Chute is not a natural structure. Miners actually diverted the river so they could search for gold in a stretch known as "Horseshoe Bar". Tom Bartos is the current land owner and knows how miners reshaped the land.
"This is actually the Seventh Wonder of Placer County," said Bartos. "The river now runs through the tunnel, which the miners blew in the 1860's. They actually blew a tunnel."
Bartos says miners used black powder and hand tools to make the 80-foot-tall, 40-foot-wide hole in the ground. It's estimated that nearly a billion dollars worth of gold was removed from this stretch of river, but you won’t see much mining these days.
"No! The only mining we do is for fish," joked Bartos.
California environmental rules and regulation have made gold mining in this area difficult and not very profitable. Today, Bartos runs a fly fishing camp and hosts the occasional Hollywood production.
"We have shot over 59 movie and commercials here," he said.
It took explosives and hand tools to divert the raging waters of the Middle Fork. Man moved the water, but by no means did man tame the American River.
“The river is wild!” said Sherry. “Tunnel Chute can throw you in the water if you don’t respect it.”
The best time to raft Tunnel Chute is from late spring to early fall and it's best to go with a guide.
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