River Safety

Dear Friend,

Part of the beauty of living in the Sacramento area is the easy access to the American River and the river parkway.  On any given warm day along the American River, many find relief from the valley heat in the cool waters that come from the Sierra Mountains to our east.  Unfortunately, dangers can also lurk here, and sadly unexpected drownings occur every year. 

However, with simple planning and a basic knowledge of river hazards, fun and enjoyment can be had by all seeking to enjoy this scenic waterway.
On this River Safety Resource page you will find information on river safety and how and where to borrow a life jacket from the Sacramento Metro Fire Department.

I encourage you to enjoy our beautiful parkways and rivers, but please be safe and responsible. Learn more by familiarizing yourself with the information provided below.

Ken Cooley
Assemblyman, 8th District

Life Jacket Loan Program

The California Department of Boating and Waterways (DBW) has partnered with public and private entities to make life jackets available to the public on a loan basis. DBW has provided life jackets to the Sacramento stations listed below so that an individual or family can check out a life jacket for a day or a weekend by simply completing a loan form. Some stations have life jacket use requirements, so please contact participating locations for specifics.

For information on life jackets laws or what type of life jacket to use, please visit: California Department of Boating and Waterways www.BoatResponsibly.com

Life Jacket Loan Stations

Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District (916) 859-4300
Stations 31: 7950 California Avenue near Sunrise Blvd and the Fair Oaks Village
Station 32: 8890 Roediger Lane at Hazel Ave. near Sunset Blvd in Fair Oaks
Station 59: 7210 Murieta Drive near Jackson Road in Rancho Murieta and the Consumes River
Station 61: 10595 Folsom Blvd. between Colma Road and Zinfandel Blvd.
Station 63: 12395 Folsom Blvd. at Hazel and Hwy 50
Station 65: 11201 Colma Road near Sunrise Blvd and Gold River
Station 110: 1432 Eastern Avenue between Arden Way and Fair Oaks Blvd.

Sacramento Fire Department (916) 808-1300
Station 5: 731 Broadway near 8th Street
Station 8: 5990 H Street near the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple
Station 11: 785 Florin Road near Heavenside Drive in the Greenhaven neighborhood
Station 15: 1591 Newborough Drive near Truxel Road
Station 60: 3301 Julliard Drive near the Raley’s on Folsom Blvd.

Folsom City Fire Department
Station 35: (916) 984-2280

Sacramento State Aquatic Center
Lake Natoma: (916) 278-2842

Boating Safety Classes: The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadrons offers classes that explain the required and recommended equipment for small boats and offering training in good seamanship. Classes are conducted throughout California by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the U.S. Power Squadrons, aquatic centers at colleges and universities, and certain chapters of the American Red Cross. For information on Coast Guard Auxiliary and Power Squadron classes, call (800) SEA-SKIL (732-7545) or (800) 368-5647.

The Department of Boating and Waterways offers a free home study course entitled California Boating Safety Course. For more information, e-mail at pubinfo@dbw.ca.gov, or phone (916) 263-1331 or tollfree (888) 326- 2822, or write: Department of Boating and Waterways, 2000 Evergreen Street, Suite 100, Sacramento, California 95815-3888. Visit CAL Department of Boating and Waterways Website at www.dbw.ca.gov

Boat Safety Guide

Paddling Safety Hints on the Lower American River 
Canoeing, kayaking, and rafting down the lower American River are popular means of recreation for thousands of Californians. Unfortunately, a number of boating accidents occur every year on this river. This need not be so. Paddling can be safe and fun if you follow a few safety hints.

Wear a Life Jacket. 
All canoes, kayaks, and inflatable rafts must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal  flotation device (life jacket) for each person on board. Children and non swimmers should wear them at all times. For that extra margin of safety, all boaters should have life jackets on when going through turbulent waters or rapids. When in Doubt. . .Put it On.

Survival in cold water 
Survival in cold water is another reason for all boaters to wear a PFD when in and around the river during the fall, winter, and spring months. The shock of sudden immersion in cold water can deplete the strength of even the strongest swimmer and hypothermia can render a person unconscious. Wearing a PFD will help keep you afloat.

Be Prepared. 
Additional equipment for the float trip could include a bailer, extra paddle, suntan or sunscreen lotion, waterproof trash bag, and a boat patch kit. Keep all loose items in a floatable container. It is also a good idea to wear a pair of old tennis shoes. Cut feet account for 80 to 90 percent of the injuries along the river.

Scout the Unknown. 
If you have never paddled through Suicide Bend, San Juan Rapids, or Arden Rapids, first scout these areas thoroughly from the shore. While paddling, if you are in doubt about a stretch of the river ahead, stop and scout the area. Carry your boat around any areas you are not sure of. Play It Safe.

Watch for Hazards. 
Watch for snags such as fallen trees, brush, bridge abutments, or old pilings. The current may pin the boater or boat against these obstacles or cause a boat to capsize. Also beware of reversals (reverse flows) that may form at the dam, in the various rapids, or behind snags. The surface water in a reversal is going upstream. Boaters and their small boats can become trapped and held in this reversal. If you cannot swim out of a reversal, dive deeply into the undercurrent, and the downstream flow may carry you out. If you become separated from your tube, paddle or other belongings, don't try to recover them unless it is safe to do so. While you might risk losing or damaging a raft, paddle or other equipment to reach someone in trouble and save a life, NEVER risk a life to save equipment or belongings.

Courtesy Afloat. 
Courtesy on the river is an essential part of boating. On weekends, when the raft brigade is out in full force on the water, be especially courteous to your fellow boater and the people along the shore. Do not intrude on their fun. Keep an eye out for a boater in trouble and lend a helping hand if you can.

Pitch In
Garbage accumulating along the shoreline or floating beside your boat ruins the beauty of this river and creates a health hazard. Pitch in and do your part to keep this area clean. Take a waterproof trash bag with you and carry out what you carry in. Avoid using glass beverage containers.

Hang On. 
If your boat capsizes or you fall overboard, STAY WITH THE BOAT, unless it is unsafe to do so. Try to right your boat so that you can climb in and paddle for shore. If this is not possible, hold on to the craft at the upstream end. This allows better visibility to enable you to swim your boat to shore. More importantly, it prevents the possibility of your being pinned between your boat and an obstacle. If you are separated from your craft, float downstream feet first. This will enable you to fend off rocks or other obstructions in the river while floating to safety.

Know the Flow. 
High flows on the American River can be dangerous. Do not overestimate your skill or underestimate the power of the river. Knowing what the flow is on the day of your trip is one way to determine if the river is boa table for your level of paddling experience. For a current recording of the river flows on the American and other rivers throughout the state, call the Department of Water Resources at (800) 952-5530, or visit their Website at wwwdwr.water.ca.gov. For additional river information, call the Sacramento County Department of Parks and Recreation at (916) 875-6672.

We Are Here To Help. 
For more information on the American River or boating safety, call either the Sacramento County Department of Parks and Recreation at (916) 875-6672 or the California Department of Boating and Waterways at (916) 263-1331. The staff at these agencies will try to answer any questions you may have. Be sure to ask them about river safety classes. Additional boating safety information can be found on the kiosk located at the Sunrise Bridge parking lot.


For More Information. 
Other maps and brochures on the American River Parkway are available from the Sacramento County Parks and Recreation Department at park entrance stations or the main office at 3711 Branch Center Road. (916) 875-6238

Online Resources

Sac Fire: http://www.sacfire.org/wpcontent/uploads/2013/04/Fire-Stations-with-Life-Jackets.pdf

River Conditions: http://cdec.water.ca.gov/river/rivcond.html

Don’t Forget About River Safety for Our Four Legged Friends
Four-legged family members need to stay safe on the water, too. There are a variety of life jackets made specifically for dogs. Check for them at marine and pet supply stores.