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Five rescued in river canyon near Auburn

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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Two separate rescue efforts brought out five people trapped late Thursday in the American River canyon near Auburn.

The first rescue took place at about 5 p.m. after a report of four people trapped onshore after swimming across the middle fork American River near the confluence and then not being able to  swim back because of sudden, higher river flows from a regular upstream dam release.

Two hours later, another canyon rescue was needed using a California Highway Patrol helicopter after an Auburn State Recreation Visitor injured an ankle and was unable to scale a steep canyon wall to walk out.

Superintendent Mike Howard said today that the four people - two men and two women in their 20s from the Elk Grove area - were able to partly walk out before being spotted by a search helicopter and met by a ranger, who helped them get back to the confluence.

Both rescues took place in an area upstream from the confluence, near a treacherous stretch of rapids called Murderer’s Bar.

In the second incident, two people had crossed the middle fork while it was still low and were unable to swim back when the level rose and the current got stronger. Placer County Water Agency releases water from upstream reservoirs for power generation and the higher flows normally arrive at the confluence by mid-afternoon or later.

One person was able to hike up to a trail but the other person had to be airlifted out by helicopter after injuring an ankle while walking with no shoes, Howard said.

During the mid- to late-afternoon releases off the Placer Water Middle Fork Project, flows on the river quadruple, Howard said.

“Most locals know but these people were here for the first time and were not aware,” he said.

Howard added that lifejackets are available at several locations to aid people who venture near the water.