Officials: 30 rescued from American River over weekend

It’s been a busy weekend on the American River, where hundreds of rafts were floating on the water Sunday – even pink flamingo rafts, like the one Semien Santos was preparing to ride.

“This is going to be the first time. I’m excited,” Santos said, who was visiting the lower Sunrise area of the American River from Tracy.

But sometimes there’s too much excitement on the water. More than two dozen people had to be rescued by fire crews this weekend.

“Yesterday, Sac Metro engaged in six water rescue incidents,” said Diana Schmidt, an information officer for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District.

Those rescue incidents involved “30 individuals that were pulled out of the water,” Schmidt said.

On the fast-flowing American River, running at about 3,500 cubic feet per second, it’s easy for rafts to get snagged in tree branches or debris under the water, especially store-bought devices that are more suited for a swimming pool.

And many people were not wearing life vests on the river.

Fisherman Steve Sims has seen it all from his vantage point on a footbridge overlooking the water.

“This morning, I warned a guy because the little kid didn’t have a life vest on,” Sims said.

“I said ‘Hey man, the ranger will cite you if you don’t wear a vest.’ And the guy goes, ‘Okay, thank you,’ and then they just floated off,” Sims said.

Roughly 40% of the people rescued on Saturday were not wearing life vests, Schmidt said.

She tried warning rafters Sunday about the dangers of the river.

“Where are your life vests?’ Schmidt asked one rafter.

The man replied: “We are not bringing life vests. We’re just going for it but we’re very good swimmers.”

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Thrill Seekers Urged To Heed Danger Signs After Teen Gets Injured Jumping From Ponderosa Bridge

Cal Fire firefighters from Colfax and California Highway Patrol have a warning for teenage thrill-seekers after a girl was injured after jumping from the Ponderosa Bridge.

“It’s going a little too far when people are jumping from 50 or 60-foot bridges into an unknown depth of water. It’s a very dangerous thing to do,” said Cal Fire engineer Forrest Roweell.

According to Cal Fire, the 17-year-old girl suffered moderate back injuries after jumping from the bridge located at the North Fork of the American River. Cal Fire firefighters from Colfax were joined by Auburn stations of State Parks, the Foresthill Fire Protection District and a CHP helicopter.

Because of the location deep in a canyon and a rough winding road going in and out, the teen faced further injury and was airlifted to the Sutter Roseville Medical Center as an ambulance would have taken too long.

Officer Jared Boothe with the CHP Valley Air Division says the helicopter was the only option.

“For the fire department and rescue personnel to carry you up and out of that trail could be a very laborious task,” said Boothe.

Despite news of the rescue, teenagers were still jumping from the bridge Tuesday evening.

“I mean sometimes in life you have to face your fears,” said Zachary Gephart. “I’m surprised the girl got injured. The water’s pretty deep and it feels good.”

While clearly marked as a “no jumping zone,” exploits are regularly filmed and posted to social media.

Some online video posts celebrate dives off the bridge with tags like “Sickest Ponderosa Bridge Jump,” “Epic 50-Foot Bridge Jump” and “Ponderosa Bridge Back Flip.”

Roweell says the girl injured on Saturday is lucky to be alive, noting that the waters vary in depth and move swiftly.

“It could have been a lot worse we are just thankful that she’s okay,” he said.

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Levee improvements prompt long-term Garden Highway closures

A busy section of Garden Highway will be closed through October while crews make improvements to levees around the Natomas Basin.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that starting Monday, Garden Highway will be closed between Northgate Boulevard and Truxel Road through Oct 31.

The Garden Highway underpass at I-5 will also be closed for three weeks starting Monday.

The work is part of the ongoing American River Common Features-Natomas Basin project, authorized by Congress in 2014.

The project aims to improve 42 miles of levee surrounding the Natomas Basin.

Contractors are placing a device called a seepage cutoff wall in the existing levees. The wall is formed out of concrete 50 feet deep into the levee to prevent water from seeping through and eroding the flood protection barriers.

Because Garden Highway sits atop the levee, crews need to close the road to excavate and construct the wall.

Drivers are asked to use West El Camino Avenue as an alternate route around the closure of Garden Highway between Northgate Boulevard and Truxel Road.

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American River Homeless Crews Work To Clean Up Trash

Now that homeless camps are permitted in the area of the American River, some say the problem is growing, but it’s actually the homeless community working to clean it up.

“I believe that the Lord got me doing this out here. I think I’m in the right place at the right time,” Dell Shook said.

He has been homeless since an eviction a few years ago. Now he is working to help clean up the area he’s living in.

Dan Aderholt formed American River Homeless Crews four years ago. It started with six homeless people, but now it’s spread to over 1,000. Every day they meet, spending hours cleaning up the river not just for themselves, but for the whole community.

“We got children that come out and go fishing and stuff like that, so I think people would like to see a nice clean area when they come out,” Shook said.

Now the crews are expanding to beyond the homeless community. The word is spreading on social media, and people are volunteering to help any way they can.

“I’ve never seen that before where community members come down and take the day off to come down and help us clean and bring my crew members subway pizza you name it they do it,” Aderholt said.

Many never expected to be in a situation like this, but still trying to make the best out of it.

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Crews rescue 12-year-old who fell into American River

Crews rescued a 12-year-old who fell into the South Fork American River on Friday, the El Dorado Fire Protection District said.

They responded to the call at around 11:30 a.m. and found that the 12-year-old was holding onto shrubbery in the Coloma State Park area. A CHP air operations unit was monitoring the child in case they lost grip of the shrubbery, officials said.

It is unknown why the child fell into the river, officials said.

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Fisherman’s Rescue Underscores Dangers Of Cold, Fast-Moving American River

For those who plan to head to the waterways this Father’s Day weekend, continued snow melt from what’s left of the Sierra snow pack is making its way to the valley and river temperatures are running cold.

This heat is bringing more people to the water, and on Thursday, there was another river rescue along the American River. A fisherman is now hospitalized after being swept into deep water. It is believed he had a medical emergency. Now, now fire crews are investigating whether the cold water is to blame.

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There’s a hidden danger at this popular Sacramento beach, water rescuers say

Crowds will be returning to Tiscornia Beach at Discovery Park this Memorial Day weekend.

And even with the cooler-than-normal temperatures this month, the Sacramento Fire Department’s water rescue team is sending out an early warning about a hidden danger at the popular cool-down spot.

“This is where drownings occur. People don’t realize it when they wade out how suddenly their footing drops off,” Sacramento Fire Captain Adam Watt said.

As the level of the American River drops throughout the summer, it’s possible for people and children to wade out to the middle of the river in knee-deep water.

“However, while you may be standing on almost flat surface, one step and you drop off into a super steep decline and it catches people unaware. And people who can’t swim or aren’t ready can go under and be swept into the fast-moving current,” Watt said.

Emergency officials stress the importance of wearing a life jacket to give water rescuers enough time to save potential drowning victims.

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Northern California man dies in rafting accident on American River near Colfax

A 56-year-old Sacramento man died while rafting on the American River 50 miles north of Sacramento Saturday.

David Wayne Johnson was rafting with two others when the vessel flipped over, according to Cal Fire. All three rafters were not wearing life jackets and were washed down the river below the Iowa Hill Bridge. One victim swam to shore and a woman was rescued shortly after the incident.

A dive team located and rescued the woman, and was forced to suspend the search for Johnson due to “dangerous water levels including class 4 rapids in this section of the river and pitch black light conditions,” Cal Fire reported.

The California Highway Patrol, Cal Fire’s Nevada-Yuba-Placer unit, California State Parks, the Placer County Sheriff and the Colfax Fire Department responded to the incident at the Mineral Bar Campground.

On Sunday, state parks officials found Johnson deceased around upper Lake Clementine, the Placer County Sheriff Department said in a statement.

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Rainbow Bridge turns 100

Folsom’s iconic Rainbow Bridge turns 100 years old on Sunday, Feb. 10, and the City of Folsom is inviting everyone to join in the 100-day centennial celebration.

Construction began on the Rainbow Bridge in 1917, and in 1918, when the bridge was going up, the Telegraph described the structure as rising apparently out of solid rocks. In 1919, the bridge opened to motorists to cross the American River. Standing strong 100 years later, this Folsom landmark has served as a symbol of strength for the City of Folsom.

Sacramento County had big plans for Rainbow Bridge when it opened. The graceful structure with its distinctive concrete arch was to be the final link in a ’40-mile loop through some of the richest agricultural lands in the state.’ County officials predicated the pastoral drive between Sacramento and Folsom was destined to become famous as a tourist attraction. Rainbow Bridge is still one of the most photographed posts on the American River.

When the bridge was built, the concrete arch was the fourth largest concrete arch span in the world. The open-spandrel arch, with cutouts between the arch and roadway, was a popular design in the early 1900s.

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Sacramento County To Pay Homeless People To Clean Debris From Camps Along American River Parkway

A new Sacramento County program will pay homeless people to clean up where fellow unsheltered people camp in tents along the American River Parkway.

Supervisors approved a partnership on Tuesday that would allocate $387,200 to PRIDE Industries, a Roseville-based nonprofit that specializes in job training, to help oversee the one-year program.

“They’ll be basically doing jobs, cleaning up the homeless camps and other areas in the parkway and the county, and while they’re doing that they’re also going to be receiving job training,” Supervisor Sue Frost said of the program.

Workers will put in 24 hours a week for 10 weeks, earning $12 an hour and also acquiring certificates that could help them transition into construction jobs. The county hopes that 40 people will graduate the program this year.

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