The North Fork American River was one of the original rivers protected with the establishment of the state system in 1972. Congress added most of the state river to the federal system in 1978.
The North Fork American originates in the Sierra Nevada northwest of Lake Tahoe and flows west through a wild and rugged canyon on the Tahoe National Forest and BLM-managed public lands. The river’s protected outstanding values include scenery, recreation, fish, wildlife, cultural, ecological, and water quality. This awe-inspiring river canyon is best known for its thrilling whitewater and challenging wilderness trails, but it also supports diverse vegetation and fish and wildlife, including native trout, endangered red-legged frog, and bald eagle. The canyon is dotted with more than 1,500 gold rush historical sites and is rich in Native American culture. Because of the roadless nature of its upper watershed, the North Fork American exhibits excellent water quality and possesses one of the highest levels of biotic integrity of any major river in the Sierra Nevada.
The protected segment of the North Fork ends at the high-water mark of the long-proposed but stalled Auburn Dam and Reservoir. The downstream segments of the North and Middle Forks of the American, which would drown behind the dam, possess many of the same outstanding natural and cultural values enjoyed by the protected North Fork.