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California Camping River

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California Rivers & River Topo Maps

Tent Camp Yosemite Valley

There are many gorgeous rivers in California that are perfect for camping and fishing, but none are located in Southern California. None! Yep, you read that right. If you think about it, the golden state is about half desert! The majority of our natural water in our state is coming from the north – so take this as a warning: you might need to drive a few hours to find your ideal river camp.

The easy-to-access waterways are found mostly along highways in the Sierra Nevada – or way up in NorCal. Deep granite gorges carved out by glaciers, surrounded by forested peaks is only half the appeal. High elevation lakes, waterfalls, big trees, abundant wildlife, and the alpine villages are all part of the Sierra Nevada experience.  Raft, kayak, fly fish, hike, bike or just camp out next to a big, rushing, flowing river. Our selection of California maps will get you narrowed down to a specific region, so you can find that perfect river campground, or explore and discover the back roads – for the most seclusion.

NorCal Rivers:

Burney Falls
Burney Falls, is part of the Pit River

EEL RIVER
KLAMATH RIVER – Klamath NF Map
MAD RIVER – NFS Campground
MATTOLE RIVER
McCLOUD RIVER
NAVARRO RIVER
NEW RIVER
NOYO RIVER
PIT RIVER
RUSSIAN RIVER
SACRAMENTO RIVER CAMPING
SALMON RIVER
6 RIVERS NATIONAL FOREST
SMITH RIVER
TRINITY RIVER
VAN DUZEN RIVER

MiddleForkFeather
Middle Fork of Feather River, Berry Creek, CA

Sierra Nevada Rivers:

AMERICAN RIVER – El Dorado NF Map
CONSUMNES RIVER – Stanislaus NF Map
FEATHER RIVER Recreation Map
FEATHER RIVER – Plumas NF Map

Kern River Hot Tub
Kern River Hot Tub

KAWEAH RIVER – Sequoia
KERN RIVER CAMPING
KERN RIVER – Sequoia
KINGS RIVER California
KINGS RIVER CAMPING
KINGS RIVER – Sequoia Kings Canyon Map
KINGS CANYON NP
MERCED RIVER – Sierra
MERCED RIVER – Yosemite Map
MOKELUMNE RIVER – El Dorado NF Map
OWENS RIVER – Inyo NF Map
SAN JOAQUIN RIVER – Sierra NF
SOUTH YUBA RIVER Recreation Map
STANISLAUS RIVER – Sonora Pass
STANISLAUS RIVER – Stanislaus NF Map
TULE RIVER – Sequoia
YUBA RIVER – North Gold Country
YUBA RIVER – Tahoe NF Map

SoCal Rivers:

COLORADO RIVER CAMPING
Colorado River Jet Ski
LAKE HAVASU
LAKE MEAD (NV) Recreation Map
LAKE MOHAVE

SANTA YNEZ RIVER @ Lake Cachuma – Santa Barbara Mountains
SESPE RIVER – more creek than river, Los Padres NF & SESPE WILDERNESS

Colorado River California
Colorado River California

 

LOCAL TIPS
River Destinations in Calif

calmrivers
Lower Kern River – Calm but Dangerous

KERN RIVER: The Kern River is one of the most popular of all the Sierra rivers due to its proximity to SoCal. Hurried, stressed-out, Angelinos (LA) can be at this destination in under 3 hours – which makes it a very busy place most months.

So, let it be told, that summer is not the best time to enjoy the Kern. If you do plan a summer outting, make sure you head for the Upper Kern (10+ mi N of Kernville & Lake Isabella) or the North Fork of the Kern (out in Monache Meadows) where 4×4 is often needed.

The Lower Kern River has only 2 developed campgrounds: Hobo (closed for damage 2019) and Sandy Flat (open all year). Numerous primitive camp spots are available along Old Kern Canyon Rd, which parallels the Hwy 178 on the south side. None of which are located at the rivers edges. Remington Hot Springs is a popular spot for soaking. Fishing trails, mountain biking trails and hiking trails, all over. Fire danger is great in this area, so pay extra close attention to signs and fire restrictions.

Kern River above Lake Isabella and Kernville is a better choice for camping availability.

Beer at River

YOSEMITE RIVER: Yosemite National Park –
Merced River & Tuolumne River

NPSEverybody loves Yosemite! This is the most popular park in the whole state. The majority of campers want to stay “right on the river” when they visit Yosemite NP, but that is just plain old impossible, since reservations go fast and there is only so much room for everyone in this enclosed, narrow, precious valley. This particular park has some major floods (1997 & 2005) that wiped out bridges, road ways; all the old wooden cabins (at Yosemite Lodge) are gone and only half of the campgrounds are still available. Yosemite has had 11 winter floods since 1916 that have caused substantial damage to property. That number is expected to increase, as winter precipitation is getting less predictable.

Reservations are taken for camping and cabins – far in advance; like one year. No joke!

3 Yosemite Campgrounds are located next to the Merced River (inside spectacular Yosemite Valley)

hikehike

Way up in the Yosemite high country, which is only open a few months outta the year, the beautiful Tuolumne Meadows Campground is located next to lush meadows and the scenic Tuolumne River. All Yosemite campsites must be reserved well in advance, so visit links above – if you are serious about a Yosemite camping trip anytime soon.

Mokelumne

MOKELUMNE RIVER: Way up the road, deep in the western Sierra, Gold Country. Small NFS campgrounds, right on the river; Access is long paved, switch back roads, not suitable for RVs or trailers.

STANISLAUS RIVER: The Sonora Pass, the fishing is very decent way back in this granite gorge. Highway 108 is only open a few months outta the year, due to snow & rock slides – so time is of the essence. Summer time is prime vacation weather up here. Several campgrounds are located right on the river, or on the major feeder streams. Or you can opt for secluded primitive camping on the back roads. Find Sonora camping in Stanislaus National Forest.

YUBA RIVER: The biggest play time river in the northern Gold Country, this runs along Hwy 49 near Downieville and also has a major South Fork for the best swimming holes and primitive camping in this region. Tubing, rafting, kayaking, fishing, camping, gold panning, you name it, Yuba has it. Look for more on the South Yuba Recreation Map, or the USDA issued Tahoe National Forest Map

FEATHER RIVER: Top fishing river in the Lassen to Oroville area. Chester and Lake Almanor in the upper reaches. High Bridge Campground is nice paved-camp-site camping; a forested spot where you can fish 2 rivers on the same day. A Plumas NF or Lassen NF map would be quite helpful for this region. Lower down the mountain, lower Feather Rivers which include all 4 forks which feed Lake Oroville – West Fork (Paradise, CA), North Fork, Middle Fork Feather, (Berry Creek, CA) and the South Fork (Lumpkin). Lots of waterways and creeks worth exploring in between Chico and the mountain town of Quincy.

KINGS RIVER: This one particular river is the longest in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, pulling snow melt from the upper reaches of the High Country and Mount Whitney. The river area just to the West of the National Park, over to Pine Flat Reservoir, is all prime for outdoor recreation. Several river rafting companies work this stretch of river.

CAMP FOUR & A HALF CABIN RENTAL
NFS KINGS RIVER
NFSrangers

hikehike

Kings River Rafters

River Beach Campground
Trinity River Camping, Douglas City, CA
riverrunsclear
Sierra Nevada Rivers are the dreams that Summers are made of.


El Dorado Campgrounds

El Dorado Camping

Kirkwood Lake
Kirkwood Lake, California

El Dorado National Forest
Carson Pass Hwy 88, Ebbetts Pass Hwy 4, Gold Rush Country
Sierra Nevada Mountains, Alpine Lakes

campground elev spots veg toilet water notes
Airport Flat Campground 5300′ 16 vault no Ice House Reservoir
Azalea Cove Campground 4900′ 10 vault lake Union Valley Reservoir
Big Meadows Campground 5300′ 54 pines flush piped handicap access
Blue Lake Lower Camp 8100′ 16 vault piped PG&E; fish, boat, camp
Blue Lake Dam Upper 8200′ 25 vault piped PG&E; fish, boat, camp
Caples Lake Campground 7800′ 35 pines vault piped fishing lake
Capps Crossing Campground 5200′ 12 pines vault piped gold panning
China Flat Campground 4800′ 25 vault piped Silver Fork Rd
Dru Barner Campground 3200′ 16 flush piped equestrian trails
Gerle Creek Campground 5300′ 50 pines vault piped handicap access
Fashoda Campground 4900′ 30 vault piped handicap access
Hell Hole Campground 5200′ 10 vault piped walk-in
Upper Hell Hole Campground 4600′ 15 vault lake Hell Hole Reservoir
Ice House Reservoir Camp 5500′ 83 vault lake handicap access
Jones Fork Campground 4900′ 10 vault lake Union Valley Reservoir
Kirkwood Campground 7600′ 12 pines vault piped narrow road; fishing
Lone Rock Campground 4800′ 5 vault lake Union Valley Reservoir
Loon Lake Campground 6500′ 62 pines vault piped equestrian; group site too
Lovers Leap Campground 5800′ 21 pines vault piped rock climbing
Lumberyard Campground 6500′ 5 pines vault RV access
Middle Creek Campground 8200′ 5 pines vault piped fishing creek
Middle Fork Cosumnes River 6780′ 5 vault crk PG&E, swim, fish
Mokelumne River Camp 3200′ 8 vault crk swim
Moore Creek Campground 3200′ 8 vault crk swim
Northshore Campground 6378′ 15 vault lake Loon Lake Campground
Northwind Campground 5500′ 9 vault lake Ice House Reservoir
Pardoes Point Campground 5900′ 10 pit no Bear River Reservoir Rd
Pipi Campground 3900′ 51 pit no handicap access
Sand Flat Campground 3900′ 29 pit no fishing
Silver Fork Campground 5500′ 35 vault piped fishing
Silver Lake Campground 7200′ 62 pines vault piped boating lake
South Fork Campground 5200′ 17 vault piped fishing
South Shore Campground 5900′ 22 vault piped Bear River Reservoir
Strawberry Point Camp 5500′ 10 vault lake Ice House Reservoir
Stumpy Meadows Campgr 4400′ 10 vault lake handicap access
Sugar Pine Campground 6000′ 10 vault no boating
Sunset Campground 4900′ 131 vault piped boating
Wench Creek Campground 4900′ 100 vault crk boating
Wentworth Springs Camp 6200′ 8 vault crk 4WD recommended
West Point Campground 4875′ 8 vault lake Union Valley Reservoir
White Azalea Campground 3500′ 6 vault crk Mokelumne River
Wolf Creek Campground 8200′ 42 vault piped boating, fishing
Woods Lake Campground 4900′ 25 vault pump handicap access
Yellowjacket Campground 4900′ 40 vault piped boating, fishing

see more about El Dorado National Forest

waterfalls

nearby towns –

El Dorado Forest Maps –