‘Enough to have fun’: Drought impacts white-water rafting

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Despite drought conditions, rafting companies on the American River are open for business, but there are some things people should know before booking a white-water trip. 

“This river is the most popular rafting river west of the Rockies,” said John Kosakowsky. 

Kosakowsky is the co-owner of River Runners, a rafting company based in Lotus on the south fork of the American River. 

“There’s no river rafting on Tuesdays,” Kosakowsky said. 

He explains that the river level is controlled by a series of dams, including the Chili Bar dam which has an underwater gate. The state of California regulates river flow with a number of downriver interests in mind, including flood control, agriculture, hydroelectric power, fisheries and recreation. 

This season, because of the drought, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays the flow on the popular south fork will be kept at a level below what is needed for white-water rafting. 

But Kosakowsky is focusing on the positive. 

“We get five days a week here on this river, which is awesome,” he said. 

On those five days, the flow of the south fork will be increased from 200 hundred cubic feet per second to upwards of 1,200 from mid-morning to mid-afternoon for rafting. 

“It’s not just enough to make it; it’s enough to have fun. The waves are still big. The currents are still fast,” Kosakowsky said. 

But sometimes people who are unfamiliar with those rivers and their changing flows will bring their own amateur equipment and run into trouble. 

Kosakowsky has many similar stories about people not being prepared and not being aware that the water levels do change throughout the day. 

“So, you’re on a great flow, and then the river drops. And now, there’s rocks everywhere and you can’t get through,” he explained. 

All of this makes the point that the safest way to enjoy white-water rafting is with a professional company and an experienced guide who knows the river. 

“We provide your lunch; we provide your shuttle. We provide your safety,” Kosakowsky said. “What we provide as a rafting industry is what makes rafting fun every time.”

The rafting companies on the American River expect to be able to run Memorial Day to Labor Day and even some weekends after that. 

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