Flowing through California’s state capital of Sacramento, the lower American is one of few urban rivers protected in the state and federal systems. The river was designated a state river in 1972 and added to the federal system in 1981. The protected river segment begins downstream of the Nimbus dam, flows through the American River Parkway, to the confluence with the Sacramento River.
The lower American River possesses outstanding salmon and steelhead fisheries and recreation values. Recreation in Sacramento County’s American River Parkway includes rafting, canoeing, and kayaking along the river, fishing for steelhead and salmon, picnicking at several developed recreation sites, and bicycling and walking along the Jedediah Smith National Recreation Trail, which follows the entire length of the wild and scenic river.
A proposal in the 1970s to divert a significant amount of water from the river for export to the Bay Area was ultimately modified in response to a legal challenge based on the river’s wild and scenic protection. A settlement resulted in the establishment of minimum flows to maintain the river’s fishery and recreation values and ultimately an agreement to relocate the proposed water diversion downstream on the Sacramento River at Freeport.