Saturday, July 4, 2015

Over the Bow: The Lower American River

 “As humans, water makes up seventy percent of our bodies.  Water is who we are at our most elemental level.  We must learn to respect water, as it is us. “ – J. Michael Read
 San Juan Rapids is constant Class II rapid on the Lower American River downstream from the Sunrise Access in Fair Oaks, California. It's clay ledge stretching out more than halfway across the river and fast water creates a long and vibrant wave train and chaotic churning eddy that wreak havoc and fun for area paddlers. The American River has picked up speed since making the sharp right turn to the north at Suicide Bend. A chute of waves gives paddlers an idea of what is coming up as they approach the rapid. Soon a roar fills the air and the sight of the rapids appear below.
 There are three ways to pass through San Juan Rapids.  Being off to the right provides the best waves, in the middle for a fun drop and extended bubble wave or stay to the far left and avoid the rapid only to feel it's powerful eddy effect. Underneath the rapid, the river flows back together smashing into the cliff creating a circular boil,  before slowing down to gentle speed.
The rapids are the last hurdle in the popular of the Eppie’s Great Race course. The popular running, biking and paddling race in Sacramento in its 42nd year.  Current Adventures Kayak School and Trips has offered intensive training at San Juan Rapid for competitor training for Eppie’s Great Race. These are sessions providing instruction in paddling and learning how to treat San Juan Rapid like a speed bump on race day. Practicing racers were encouraged to run the rapid a couple of times to familiarize themselves with its nature.
Learning to how to paddle the rapid is fun and exciting, but with any fast flowing turbulent water safety advised along with the use of a personal flotation device or PFD.  A 64-year-old man has died last week after emergency crews flew him from the San Juan Rapids to Mercy San Juan hospital. The Sacramento Metro fire department received a call about an unconscious man at the rapids. Bystanders and boat rescuers gave the man CPR before he was flown to the hospital by Metro Fire’s helicopter crew. The victim was not wearing a PFD.

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