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'First Of Their Kind': Swift Water Lifeguards Now Stationed At Auburn State Recreation Area

AUBURN (CBS13) — The rushing waters flowing through the Auburn State Recreation Area attract a lot of visitors who may not know just how risky swimming can be.

For the first time in California State Park history, two swift water lifeguards are keeping a watchful eye on the dangerous waters. They are highly trained and stationed at the Auburn State Recreation Area. They are the only lifeguards of this kind in the entire California State Parks system.

"It's a lot of foot patrol out on these beaches here on the Middle and North Fork," said Gordon Pershall, one of the lifeguards.

Pershall and his partner Wyatt Jackson use teamwork to save swimmers trapped by rising waters or debris.

"We're mostly here to be on the preventative side, to try and lower the number of actual rescues that happen out here," Jackson said.

They're equipped with helmets, life vests and rope.

"The rescues here are a lot more technical," Jackson said.

They're ready to jump in the water themselves in pursuit of a swimmer in distress.

"They raise the river for rafting and those are the times we find people getting in trouble, when they've gotten out on rocks and they can't get back safely," Pershall said.

Sgt. Lauren Shoemaker with the Auburn State Recreation Area said Wyatt and Gordon provide on-the-ground, immediate eyes and ears during an emergency situation.

"We've seen an upswing in recreation and visitation within the park," she said.

They give crucial intel to other first responders called in for support.

"Although we have lifeguards here, we like to put out there that it doesn't necessarily mean that it's safe to come out here all the time. You should check weather conditions, flow rates," Sgt. Shoemaker said.

Leaders at the Auburn State Recreation Area say they hope to expand this lifeguard program locally and say it could lead to more swift water lifeguard programs statewide.

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