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Social media spurs 'Rafting Gone Wild' on American River

6:38 AM, Jul 18, 2011   |    comments
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Go Floating on the American River -- It's not just for packs of drunken college kids. Grab some kind of floatation device, find a launch point, jump in and relax as the cool flow carries you downstream.

SACRAMENTO, CA - It was a calm start but things got a bit rowdy for "Rafting Gone Wild" Sunday. Toward the end of the day, firefighters treated one woman hurt from mud-wrestling.

Firefighters said one man was rescued from the water who had apparently consumed too much alcohol and may have been suffering from severe hypothermia.

PHOTOS: Rafting Gone Wild!

By the end of the day, a Sacramento County Sheriff's helicopter helped clear people out of Riverbend Park as deputies and Rancho Cordova Police managed crowd control and broke up several fights.

Katie Kennedy, of Concord, heard about the event on Facebook and said it became a "must do" event for many young people from as far away as San Jose.

"Mud Island always calls for a little bit of mud wrestling. It's just the way it is. Lotta girls wanna get in on it. Kind of the place to be at the time," she said, referring to so-called Gilligan's Island along the river where hundreds of kids gathered to party and even mud wrestle.

Thousands of people got wind of the party on the American River, thanks to social media. About 12,000 people said on Facebook they were planning to attend. But park rangers estimated the final number at closer to 6,000.

"There's a lot more people than I have ever seen here," said Cliff Thomas who heard about the event on Facebook and said he didn't want to miss the party.

"Someone posted it on my Facebook page," said Danette Steele, a rafter. "There's a lot of people out here. It's definitely crazy."

The Facebook posting talked of "tying rafts together and raging." Rage or not, rafters were ready for fun. Law enforcement and firefighters kept a close eye on rafters. They were on standby for potential problems.

"I've been with sheriff's department for 20 years never seen it start off this wild before," said Sgt. Greg Johnson with Rancho Cordova Police Department. "It could be bad. It's crowded and the water is fast and cold."

Authorities reminded boaters about life jackets and made sure they didn't carry glass containers.

The big challenge law enforcement and firefighters faced on this record turnout rafting day was that alcohol was not banned on the water or on the shores. Typically, they see similar large crowds on holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or Labor Day. Drinking on parts of the American River is banned on those days.

Alcohol fueled plenty of incidents. Sacramento Metro Fire District said it assisted in at least a dozen calls for help on the river stemming from intoxicated people who got separated from their party. At least 10 people were arrested for public intoxication. And two people were taken to the hospital.

By Suzanne Phan, sphan@news10.net

Twitter: @suzannephan

News10/KXTV

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