Rafters Head to the River for Memorial Day Weekend

SACRAMENTO -- Along the river, the sounds of wildlife will soon be replaced by air pumps filling rafts as Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, kicks of the rafting season.

"Looks like we're going to have a blast in the water over here!" said Matt Gilbert, who is visiting from the Bay Area.

And is the case with most major summer holidays, alcoholic beverages were banned on the river this weekend.

"I mean, it's whatever, you know, we're still going to have fun. We'll find other ways, we'll make it happen," said rafter Alex Lopez.

However, unlike in years past, rangers were not checking the coolers of rafters getting into the water.

In fact, the only rangers seen by FOX40 crews were instead searching a U-Haul that had a flat tire. But FOX40 was told a boat was enforcing the alcohol ban farther down the river.

"I'm sure if it would have been allowed, we would have brought some," said rafter Matt Gilbert.

One change this year is on the American River Footbridge, where storms knocked out the west side railing. Now a construction fence will prevent people from jumping off the bridge, an illegal act rangers had to issue many tickets for last year.

"We like to watch all the crazy rafters," said Michele Virgen.

Up on the shore, Virgen and her husband, Ralph, enjoyed sitting in the shade watching the river. But unfortunately, they've started to notice a dangerous trend.

Virgen said they had seen about 25 people with life jackets.

"... but unfortunately most of them don't. So we pray that they're all going to be well and safe," she said.

Life vests are still free this summer, but many are opting to not use them.

Rangers warn the American River's flows are especially high this year and the current is still very strong.