Park Rangers Ask Kayakers, Rafters to Stay Off Lower American River due to Dangerous Flows

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SACRAMENTO -- Park rangers are asking kayakers and rafters to avoid the lower American River this weekend due to dangerous flows.

After one of the wettest winters on record for California, flows into the American River have been particularly high and fast.

While those flows are far from their highest, officials say they still pose a danger, as debris and trees near the banks are still under water.

"There’s new side channels that people are unfamiliar with and, right now, the river is not in a condition that would support a home bought raft -- let alone a rental," Michael Doane, Sacramento County Parks' chief ranger, told FOX40.

The power of the water in the lower American was evident from the damage that still needs to be repaired along the parkway. The pedestrian bridge at Sunrise Boulevard was closed for repairs Thursday. Underneath, deflated rafts remain after they were swept under last week. Those on board were lucky to get to safety.

“If you're not a strong swimmer, or if the coldness of the water or the panic sets in, you’re going to be in a real dangerous situation and you could lose your life," Doane said.

It can even be dangerous for those who venture too close because the river banks are saturated and unstable. Those familiar with the river agree.

“It looks beautiful, it’s very deceiving. You almost want to jump in there but not quite," cyclist Stephen Johnson said. "It is moving very fast, there’s a lot of water coming down here."

Parking lots are still closed at Discovery Park, and the Howe and Watt Avenue accesses. Rangers are saying if you want to come to river, enjoy it from afar.

These conditions aren't unique to the American River.

In the past week, emergency responders have rescued several people along the Molelumne River in Lodi.