A guide trainee crew with American Whitewater Expeditions raft down the South Fork of the American River on Thursday, May 4 near Coloma.

A river whose twists and turns have earned names like “Troublemaker,” “Satan’s Cesspool” and “Dead Man’s Drop” warrants respect — even when years of drought have tamed its rushing waters. This, of course, is not such a year.

A winter that drenched the Golden State with torrential rains and blanketed its mountains with massive, now-melting snow has swelled California’s rivers like the American to levels not seen for years, even generations.

Recommended for you