American River Guide Tiny Houses - Tiny House Blog

River Guide Tiny Houses

This last summer, my husband and I took a three day whitewater rafting trip on the South Fork of the American River in central California. This area of the state has a culture of its own. While the mountains and the coast have the ski and surf bum, the American River is home to the seasonal river guide. Many of these river guides come from all over the country to raft and kayak one of the most popular rivers in the West and they live from May to October in a hodgepodge of dwellings.

The river guides we rafted, ate and played in the water with lived in tents at nearby campgrounds, in temporary buildings on land leased by various rafting companies or in VW buses in the parking lot. One of the guides even lived the entire summer in a hammock strung up between two live oak trees. The guides used the campground bathrooms and showers and cooked in outdoor kitchens. Around the river, and in the massive, thorny blackberry bushes these free spirits squat in what might seem like terrible living conditions, but what they see as the best way to experience the river.

Our guide, Anna, lived with her boyfriend in a tent (which she called her house) on a wooden platform in a nearby campground. She said she loved to go to sleep with the sound of the river right next to her head and that the platform under the tent elevated her own tiny house to the next level of luxury. However she did covet my teardrop trailer.

Photos by Christina Nellemann


By Christina Nellemann for the (Tiny House Blog)

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MJ - November 20, 2012 Reply

These are great, and a whole culture I think only a few (relatively speaking) know about. Thanks for sharing something really interesting with us!

Walt Barrett - November 20, 2012 Reply

Good Morning Christina,
I really enjoyed the story and photos. My wife Nancy and I used to drive up highway 50 in the early 1950’s and camp along the banks of the south fork of the American River. We used to pan gold and catch a lot of trout. Some times we never saw another person all weekend. We used to take our two oldest boys and cook our meals on the tail gate of our 1953 Plymouth station wagon. We now have 4 sons and a daughter.
We were stationed at Mather AFB in Sacramento at the time. There were very few cabins then and no rafters that we ever saw. At Angels Camp we met an old man that lived in the shell of an old car on the riverbank and panned gold that he sold to the occasional tourist for souvenirs. He taught us a great deal about finding and panning gold. The trout fishing was the best we ever experienced.
Walt Barrett

    Christina - November 20, 2012 Reply

    Thanks for the lovely story Walt. That area of California is one of my favorites.

Joe3 - November 20, 2012 Reply

Thanks for sharing this gem, I’ll have to add this river to my bucket list …

JackAss - November 23, 2012 Reply

That sign is great, I wish there were more like it.

The Simple and Useful Beauty of the Raised Platform - Tiny House Blog - November 12, 2018 Reply

[…] years ago I wrote a Tiny House Blog post about American River guides who live for the river season out of their tents or various vehicles. Most of the tents are located […]

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