Tuesday, May 08, 2007


In the urban core of the central valley, Sacramento's sparkling jewel, the American River, has long been a draw to the suburban and city paddlers. The river flows year round attracting many users to its fishing, picnicking, swimming and rafting. It's the recreation river we read about the most... especially after a major holiday. The river is deceptively calm. And yet, it has had more fatalities due to its seemingly easy flow. Debris, cold waters, swirling currents have trapped many who did not have lifejackets or proper gear during their attempted swims or crossings.

The county of Sacramento has had its share of woes as more and more groups run that river on small vinyl rafts or rented rafts from the various vendors that line the shores. It's become a ritual for the rowdies that pepper the river with loud, cursing voices and tossed beer cans. Not only has the area been polluted by noise and trash, but the pollution of the atmosphere has given way to alarming riots and a melee of violence.

Alcohol does that. That seems to be the element that is shared by every violent encounter on that river. It has driven families away. So the county has passed an ordinance banning alcohol during Memorial Day weekend, 4th of July and Labor Day Weekend. So there.

Up here on the American River whitewater trips, the ban has been in placed for many, many years. California State Parks saw the problem years ago and applied these regulations to our industry. Not because of violence, but out of a respect for white water. Ya gotta know what your doing to be safe. Commercial outfitters don't allow alcohol on their trips. Period.

As rafters and paddlers, we enjoy our alcoholic beverages. Don't get me wrong. It's just that California outfitters have a responsibility to our paying guests to be at our best when their safety is in our hands. The rowdy and obnoxious public behavior on the Lower American is a shameful display of idiocy. If I were the county board, I'd ban alcohol permanently on that urban river.

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