When I worked for California State Parks in the Auburn State Recreation Area, I found Mammoth Bar. Most know this as the OHV Park with noisy and smelly motorcycles.  But have you ever been on a day that wasn’t open to dirt bikes?


 It happens every week. No one around except the insiders that know what is down there. For one, easy access to the river. Improvements have been made with a larger, paved parking area, more toilets and trash cans.

A fee is still collected but your Poppy Pass works here. Drive to the back of the parking lot to park, then watch your step over the river rocks and take in the view of the North Fork of the American River rushing by. If you find this area already taken, head back out past the kiosk. 


The first signed parking area on the left offers a short scramble down to the river next to the Murderer’s Bar rapids. Several semi-isolated sand and river-rock beaches are here. I used to take my sons here to swim with the otters. Little fish looking for a snack would brush against our toes where we disturbed the sand. 

The access to Murderer’s Bar rapids is not an easy stroll. Lots of rocks, roots and ruts are hurdles on this narrow path through brush and oak woodland. Once in the direct sun in summer, the heat will zap your energy. Take lots of water and protect yourself with sunblock, a hat, and sunglasses. e


If you intend to swim with the fish, know that there are many hazards under the surface, not to mention the current can be fast and incredibly cold even into summer. The rapids are their own hazard. I stay upriver of the rapids when I visit.

Mary West is author of the book series Day Hiker – Gold Country Trail Guide I, II, III and now IV. All available on Amazon. The books are a collection of the Day Hiker columns where West shares her longtime love of the outdoors, favorite hikes in Northern California’s Gold Country and beyond. West was the recipient of the 2017 and 2019 CRAFT Award for Best Outdoor Column and the 2020 Craft Award for her second book in the series-Day Hiker Gold Country. You can find her books locally at the California Visitors Center in El Dorado Hills Town Center.

Photos by Mary West, Day Hiker

Mary West
Author: Mary West