Folsom Lake rangers predict busiest weekend in years

State park rangers predicted Friday that as many as 75,000 people will visit Folsom Lake during the Memorial Day weekend to take advantage of the reservoir’s highest water level in years.

Ranger Ryan Steele said the crowd could be the biggest since the drought began four years ago.

“We’ve had such a low water level that the lake hasn’t been very enticing for everybody,” Steele said. “Now, they have the opportunity to come out here and really use it for its full recreational potential.”

By early Friday afternoon, cars and trailers with boats were starting to line up the Granite Bay entrance to Folsom Lake State Park.

On the beach at Beal’s Point, extra lifeguards are scheduled to be on duty.

The campgrounds are reserved for all three days of the weekend.

Myrna Bennett, of San Francisco, said her weekend at Folsom was just the start of a summer of campouts.

“Then we’re planning to go to Rancho Seco in Sacramento. Then we’re planning to go to Lake Shasta,” Bennett said. “And the other one, it’s (Lake) Tulloch.”

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Body recovered from American River, Sacramento fire says

Crews recovered the body of a drowning victim Friday afternoon from the American River, the Sacramento Fire Department said.

The identity of the person, a male of an undetermined age, is unknown. The body has been turned over to the Sacramento County Coroner’s Office.

The body was discovered around 3 p.m. by a person paddle boating down the river near the Howe Avenue boat ramp.

“I saw a couple of feet so I got back to it to double check, and I see two hands floating up and mossy,” Mel Mendez said. “There was another another family of paddle boaters, and I said, ‘Can you confirm this? I think I found a body.'”

DART searched upstream from the Howe Avenue Bridge before the body was recovered, fire department spokesperson Chris Harvey said.

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Bald Eagles Spotted in Sacramento County

A couple of bald eagles have been seen recently near Lake Natoma, just about 20 miles east of Sacramento off Highway 50.

During a visit to the lake on Wednesday, FOX40 spoke with several people who reported recent bald eagle sightings.

“I was shocked that we even have them here,” remarked Mary Ann Williams, who captured iPhone images of the birds perched high up in a tree while she was hiking with a friend a few weeks ago.

“I don’t know why, but I looked up, and I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Williams said.

Wildlife experts say bald eagles are thriving due to conservation efforts.

“For the last 40 years or so, every wildlife agency has worked to bring them back,” explained Andrew Hughan of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Lake Natoma, surrounded by high dense trees, is a suitable habitat.

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California’s outdoor writers flock to Auburn, Placer County

They came. They saw. They were conquered – by Placer County’s outdoor attractions.

That was the consensus of local tourism industry spokespeople after 58 writers and photographers with the Outdoor Writers Association of California were treated to a variety of opportunities to explore and learn about Placer County’s outdoor amenities as part of the group’s conference Sunday and Monday in Auburn.

Bob Semerau, association president emeritus, had praise Tuesday for organizers and Auburn attractions.

“Experiencing the broad spectrum of outdoor adventure opportunities to be found in Placer County has given the membership a real appreciation for this lovely part of California,” Semerau said. “Fly fishing the middle fork of the American River with Grady Garlough of Rise Up River Trips highlighted the pristine and wild natural beauty to be found throughout the region. And the fishing was awesome.”

Mora Rowe, Placer County Visitors Bureau executive director, said Tuesday that many facets of the county’s outdoor tourism-based industry were presented to the organization in tours and recreational opportunities.

They included bass fishing on Folsom Lake, a tour of ancient geology and watersheds in the Foresthill area and target practice at the Auburn Trap Shooting Club. At the Auburn Quarry near Cool, experienced rock climbers were offered the opportunity to climb a cliff.

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Hiker and his dog found alive after 3-day search in snowy Sierra

A 23-year-old Placer County man and his dog who had been missing for three days in the Tahoe National Forest were found safe Thursday after a rescue helicopter crew spotted a sign reading “help” made of Duct tape on the ground, officials said.

Cody Michael, of Rocklin County, and his German shepherd, Bauer, were found off the Cherry Point trail of the sprawling forest, 1.2 miles northeast of where the American River meets Big Granite Creek in Placer County, officials said.

Michael told officials he lost his way after the trail became covered with snow in the area about 20 miles west of Truckee (Nevada County).

“We always hold out hope, but every searcher has the worst in the back of their mind,” said Dena Erwin, a spokeswoman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Department. “To have a positive outcome was amazing. There were a lot of us in tears.”

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Snowpack melting quickly in Sierra causes faster rapids

With temperatures in the 90s Tuesday, the water was raging along the North Fork of the American River thanks to fast-melting snow.

The raging waters are good news not only for rafters and boaters, but also for Northern California reservoirs, which are filling up fast.

Lake Shasta is 93 percent full Tuesday, thanks to a healthy snowpack. Lake Oroville is 96 percent full while Folsom Lake is 86 percent full.

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Water flow great for rafting on the American River

For the first time in three years, the rafting industry has a chance to make a comeback. Water flow on the South Fork of the American River has returned to normal levels.

Drought seriously reduced the amount of water on the South Fork in previous years. Chili Bar Dam controls the water flow on the South Fork. Three years ago water released from the dam was reduced. Rafters could only float the South Fork five days out of the week for only three hours a day. This year Chili Bar Dam is releasing a steady flow of water seven days a week.

The higher water flow is also boosting business along the South Fork of The American River. Sierra Whitewater Rafting says when there is steady flow of water coming out of the dam, the company can now book multiple trips every day. This reduces crowding and allows flexible raft trip times for travelers looking to do a day trip.

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River rescuers prepare for busy season in Sacramento region

As swimming weather arrives, local officials say they’re hoping to avoid a repeat of last summer, when more than a dozen people drowned on the American and Sacramento rivers – twice the average yearly toll.

Rescuers said the drought and dropping water levels opened up new sections of beach, luring some people farther out into river channels and toward sudden drop-offs, where strong currents swept them to their deaths.

That was especially true at a small section of Tiscornia Beach, a popular swimming area at the confluence of the region’s two big rivers.

Now, after seasonal rains and water releases from Folsom Dam, the Sacramento and American rivers have surged, running deeper and faster than last year. That poses a threat, too, said John Mohamed, a training officer and team leader for the Drowning Accident Rescue Team, commonly called DART.

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Placer County family leaves legacy of land, sharing

The legacy of Betty and Matt Bailey lives on in a new 40-acre preserve recently donated by the couple’s family on the north fork of the American River, near Alta.

The Auburn-based Placer Land Trust took possession of the rugged, scenic canyon land in April. It’s located at the bottom of the Green Valley Trail, south of Interstate 80.

It’s a fitting transfer of a legacy of land the Baileys sought to preserve.

The Baileys played key roles in advocating for the preservation of the north fork American River under a federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act designation. In 1978, Congress approved wild and scenic status for 38 miles of the north fork upstream of the Iowa Hill bridge. It was one of the first rivers in the U.S. to receive the status, preventing any future dams from being built.

The 40 acres are being named the Bailey North Fork Preserve and permanently protected as natural and recreational land. Matt Bailey died in 2015 at 89. Betty Bailey died eight months earlier at 90. They were nearing their 60th wedding anniversary.

Lisa Balmain, an Auburn resident, said her mother and father loved the river, the canyon and their community. While her father was the public face of the two, also advocating against an Auburn dam, Betty Bailey took over at home to allow her husband the time and energy to pursue his commitment, Balmain said.

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Rescue at Ruck-a-Chucky rapids in Placer County ends with CHP chopper lift

A CHP helicopter swooped in to lift up a hiker who fell along the Middle Fork of the American River over the weekend and deliver him to a Roseville hospital.

The rescue at Ruck-a-Chucky rapids was needed when Chris Hammond, 57, of Kings Beach, fell after becoming light-headed. Hammond was unable to walk out so his frined hiked up the trail to get cell phone coverage, and phoned for help.

Once notified of Hammond’s predicament at around 3:45 p.m. Saturday, CHP helicopter 20 lifted off from the Auburn Airport. They found Hammond’s friend on a road above the river.

The friend was pointing downhill, allowing the helicopter crew to find the distressed Hammond sitting on a rock. The helicopter crew directed first responders on the ground to Hammond’s position.

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