With triple digit temperatures frequent in the summer months here in the Central Valley, residents of the Valley look to cool off and relax during the summer scorch. One great way to kick-back and enjoy your summer vacation is river floating.
Knights Ferry and Orange Blossom are popular launch spots to start a float. While these are personally my own two favorite places to start a float, Professor Rachel Grimshaw also enjoys launching from these general areas. “Summertime is the only time I don’t have grading... I don’t recall when my first time was, but it was in my early-mid-twenties... we still have the same $25 rafts from Big-5 we started with.”
What do I bring?
What to bring is probably the most important thing you should ask yourself when planning a river float. Basically just bring everything you can think of. A few things to consider, something to connect rafts together (rope), a cooler, sunscreen, a change of clothes, and the most important of all, drinking water.
Grimshaw tries to always bring more than she needs. “Bring enough to share," is a great motto to live by when floating with a group of friends on the river.
How do I keep stuff dry?
Plastic bags and waterproof cases (sometimes expensive) are always a great option, but Grimshaw shared a helpful tip. She recommended using a thermos as a waterproofing tool.
If spending a whole day in the water isn’t your speed, here is an amazing article by our very own Jocelyn Burke on various hiking locations enjoyed by the CSU community.
How long does it take?
Depending on the flow of the river it can take various amounts of time, it really depends on how fast the water is moving. Another thing to consider is what you’re floating in. For example a kayak moves faster than a donut. Basically, the more drag and weight you have, the slower you will float. That being said, it's recommended to get an early start. This will also aid in getting a better parking spot. Grimshaw usually spends about four hours floating, “which is I think about all you want to do... we try to get in around 10:00.”
Getting in at Orange Blossom is always a great place to begin a float. For a shorter float you can get out at Valley Oak Recreation. This stretch will take approximately two to four hours depending on your float speed. The next destination to get out is at the Oakdale Recreation Park. This can take, depending on the flow, most of the day. To check the flow rate of the river before you plan your summer escape, you can check this Government website to see what the flow rate is like for the day.
How can I be safe?
It is important to never get in the water if you don’t feel comfortable, especially when the water is high. Wearing a life jacket when the water is high is always a good idea, but for the most part, if the water is only hip high and you are a strong swimmer, it’s not necessary unless you want extra sun protection. Traveling with a group is likely going to be more fun and safer than floating alone; it never hurts to have help available. Bringing a first aid kit is also recommended.
At times, objects under the water's surface are hard to avoid and may have the potential to cause harm. Sunglasses help to reduce the sun's reflection off the water's surface from damaging your retinas. Protective clothing can help to reduce sun damage to the skin. It is recommended however that it is not loose, loose clothing may become caught on nearby brush.
The river is a hotspot for sunburns. On that note, sunscreen is crucial when on the river. An important tip to remember is to follow the directions found on the bottle. Sunscreen doesn’t last all day and often needs reapplication. When wearing sunscreen in the river, it is recommended to purchase and use reef safe products. According to The Outdoor Swimming Society, some sunscreens contain the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, which cause damage to the ocean reefs our rivers inevitably lead to.
River floating is a great and cost effective way to spend a relaxing day escaping the brutal summer sun. Remember to plan your trip accordingly and bring more gear than you need, especially water!