|Population||280 (2021 census)|
|LGA(s)||Kangaroo Island Council|
|Region||Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island|
|County||County of Carnarvon|
The area now known as American River was first visited by Europeans in 1802 when Matthew Flinders landed to survey this part of Kangaroo Island. In 1803, a group of American sealers camped for four months in the area. They arrived on the brig Union and built their own 35 ton schooner Independence from local timber. The town takes its name from this time. A memorial plaque and accompanying anchor (recovered in 1969) from an early American whaling vessel is dedicated to Union 's crew.
Frank Potts was the first official settler in 1842, before moving to the mainland and establishing the Bleasdale vineyard and winery at Langhorne Creek. John Buick, a professional boat builder, built the first house in the town in 1844. It was fashioned out of local stone, pug and sput timber and remained standing until 1985.
A fish canning factory existed for a few years from the late 1890s, remnants of which may still be found on the shore north of the town proper. Gypsum was mined at Flour Cask Bay, later at Pelican Lagoon and trucked to nearby Ballast Head, from 1956 until 1986.
Until the 1980s the town was serviced regularly by the ketches Falie, Nelcebee (last service 15 April 1982) and Ulonga, operated by R. Fricker & Co. Consequently, on cessation of this service the wharf area for some time was a redundant commercial facility, resulting in the removal of several buildings and fuel facilities.
The establishment of guest houses at American River in the early part of the 20th century were the forerunner of today's tourism industry on Kangaroo Island. Ryberg, Lierich, and Linnett, are names synonymous with the development of tourism at American River.
Nils Ryberg, a Swedish born immigrant, settled at American River in 1884, and ten years later built the original "Ryberg House" on the site of the present Kangaroo Island Lodge, exclusively for tourist accommodation.
Ryberg added to the building over several years, before selling to John and Valerie Linnett in 1913. Ryberg House was completely rebuilt in 1928, and remains today. Fishing trips were an integral part of the business, with three boats, Warrigal, Linnette and Linnette 2 comprising the fleet which operated until 1985.
The business was operated until John Linnett's death in 1955, after which time his four sons, Keith, Lionel, Leon and Gordon continued under the name of Linnetts Pleasure Resort.
Leon Linnett assumed sole proprietorship in 1971, expanding the resort with the erection of several new wings and refurbishing the reception, administration and restaurant areas in 1980, when the resort became known as Linnetts Island Club.
Leon Linnett sold the property in the late 1990s to an Adelaide-based consortium that trades under the name Kangaroo Island Lodge.
The town supports a Country Fire Service brigade and South Australian Ambulance Service depot. An active sports and community association maintains a focal point for weekly meals and community awareness, whilst an annual fishing competition, normally held at Easter, is popular. There is a small store and post office, providing most postal services (limited banking) on Buick Drive. There is also a small cafe and gift shop located at the wharf which is open from 10.00am to 3.00pm daily.
An extensive wharf with mooring facilities for large commercial fishing boats was completed in 1964. A new, triple berth boat ramp with floating pontoons was completed in July 2008.
In recent years several new land subdivisions have seen increased development within the township, highlighting the need for improved effluent disposal and water supply. A Community Wastewater Management Scheme was implemented in 2009.
Air services were operated for a number of years by Emu Airways, utilising a privately owned airstrip located to the north of the township. Air Transport regulations subsequently rendered the airstrip unsuitable for commercial flights. An accommodation venue at nearby Muston publicises access via an alternative, private air strip.
- Australian Bureau of Statistics (28 June 2022). "American River (L)". 2021 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 12 August 2023.
- "Postcode for American River, South Australia". postcodes-australia.com. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
- "Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island SA Government region" (PDF). The Government of South Australia. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
- "Search result for " American River (LOCB)" (Record no SA0001181) with the following layers selected – "Suburbs and Localities" and "Local Government Areas"". Property Location Browser. Government of South Australia. Archived from the original on 12 October 2016. Retrieved 22 May 2016.
- Mawson (Map). Electoral District Boundaries Commission. 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2018.
- "Federal electoral division of Mayo, boundary gazetted 16 December 2011" (PDF). Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- "Monthly climate statistics: Summary statistics KINGSCOTE (nearest station)". Commonwealth of Australia , Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
- Flinders, Matthew (1966) . A Voyage to Terra Australis : undertaken for the purpose of completing the discovery of that vast country, and prosecuted in the years 1801, 1802, and 1803 in His Majesty's ship the Investigator, and subsequently in the armed vessel Porpoise and Cumberland Schooner; with an account of the shipwreck of the Porpoise, arrival of the Cumberland at Mauritius, and imprisonment of the commander during six years and a half in that island (Facsimile ed.). Adelaide: Libraries Board of South Australia. pp. 259–260. Retrieved 5 January 2014.
- "Memorial Plaque and Anchor, Tangara Dr, American River, SA, Australia (Place ID 7423)". Australian Heritage Database. Australian Government. Retrieved 4 August 2008.
- "Frank Potts – A Pioneer of 1836". Archived from the original on 30 June 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
- Thomas,C (1978). Birth of American River. Islander Press.
- "First House, American River". Aussie Heritage. Archived from the original on 2 August 2008. Retrieved 30 July 2008.
- "Postcards – American River, Kangaroo Island". Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 6 June 2007.
- Government of South Australia. "Mineras – Gypsum". Retrieved 12 October 2016.
- "The very long tale of Nelcebee". December 2008. Afloat. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
- "AS OTHERS SEE US". Kangaroo Island Courier (Kingscote, SA : 1907 – 1951). 20 September 1924. p. 2. Retrieved 29 June 2020.
- Marsden, Susan. "A short history of Kangaroo Island". sahistorians.org.au. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
- "Kangaroo Island Residence". State Library of South Australia – Mortlock Pictorial Collection. Archived from the original on 9 July 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2008.
- Cordes, Neville, Linnetts – A Kangaroo Island Dynasty 2005, Statewide and Global Group, ISBN 0-909630-37-2
- "The idyllic waterfront location on the wharf at American River is the setting for the attractive, nautically-themed Deck Cafe". The Islander. 5 April 2017. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
- "American River". Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron. Retrieved 8 November 2020.
- Kangaroo Island Council. "American River CWM Scheme". Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2007.
- Kangaroo Island Web Portal. "Kangaroo Island – American River – Accommodation – Muston Heights". Retrieved 22 June 2009.