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Dangerous river levels, not the alcohol ban, keeping people away this Memorial Day weekend

Will it be a quiet holiday weekend on local waterways?
Will it be a quiet holiday weekend on local waterways? 02:19

SACRAMENTO — It is Memorial Day Weekend, but fewer people are flocking to the river this year.

"We are hoping people stay safe this weekend," said one man who was at Riverbend Park on Saturday. "Typically, it is a bad weekend for people on the river."

Enforcement to keep families safe was in full effect with an alcohol ban at all Sacramento County parks through Monday at sundown.

"Sometimes, the alcohol just adds that little extra fuel that comes with problems," said Sacramento County Regional Park Ranger Commander David Spencer.

This year, it is unusually quiet, but it is not because of no booze.

"I think the river levels is probably what are keeping people away," said Spencer. "The past few years, we usually see large numbers, even on the weekends where there are alcohol bans, and it does not seem to be an issue."

CBS13 ran into a family of kayakers that said the trip from the Sunrise Recreation Area to Riverbend Park that usually takes two to three hours only took an hour and fifteen minutes.

"We are not stopping and swimming," said kayaker Cody Chambers. "Normally, we get out and float for a little bit, but we did not do that this time."

"It is about 16,000 cubic feet a second," Spencer of the river's flow. "Normally, around this time of year, we are running 1,000 to 2,000 feet."

Fewer people in the water equaled fewer families barbecuing in the park.

"I was surprised we found a table, to be honest with you," said one woman who was at Riverbend Park Saturday. "I thought it would be packed all weekend."

Some people thought it was less crowded because people chose to get out of town.  

It was a different story at Lake Natoma with a lot more people packing the beach and water.

"There are no rapids or anything like the river," said Andrea Wind who was out with family at the lake.

The current was not as strong for the kayakers and paddleboarders, but the water was still very cold.

"It is way too cold," said David Hollister who was visiting from Oregon. "It is like a polar plunge, basically."

Hollister was with Dave Matthews who was visiting from Chicago. The two were there to spend time with friends for the holiday.

"Memorial Day weekend in Cali? Can't beat it," said Matthews.

Locals said they picked the lake over the river because of the safety.

CBS13 only heard of one water rescue by Metro Fire in Sacramento County on Saturday. Most people were listening to all the warnings and staying away from the water.

"We still do not recommend anyone to go into the river," said Spencer. "It is very, very dangerous." 

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