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China Bar opens for free day-use

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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China Bar White Water Recreation Area on the American River in the canyon below Auburn will be opened up for free day-use today, giving the public a chance to experience the rush of the river and wildness of surrounding lands. China Bar is part of the Auburn State Recreation Area and while equestrians and runners, hikers and anglers had used the canyon, the reopening of the river last year restored a channel route between the American River confluence upstream and Folsom Lake that had been closed since the early 1970s to boaters. Eric Peach, one of the organizers of Protect American River Canyon’s annual American River Confluence Festival, said people will not have to pay gate fees to park in designated areas in the China Bar Recreation Area off Maidu Drive. He said the hope of State Parks and his organization is that more people discover the potential of the river for boating and start to use it more frequently in the future. Man-made rapids were created as part of the work by the Placer County Water Agency to build a water pump station while restoring the river to its original channel and open it for kayaking and other activities on the water. “It remains for the public to learn more about it,” Peach said. “There are issues like access and timing. You have to know when you’re paddling when the water is up.” The Water Agency releases water from upstream reservoirs that arrives downstream at the confluence in the late afternoon and evening. Navigating the rapids at the China Bar White Water Recreation Area is another part of the public learning curve, Peach said. Kayakers can drive down to the riverfront take-in for boaters at the shoreline and then paddle upstream to the rapids, he said. Bob Snyder, an Auburn resident who rafts and canoes on the whitewater, said he thinks it’s fantastic to have the resource so close to the city. Snyder said that initial thoughts by some were that the river below the confluence would be a huge magnet for water recreation. “But it’s a hard run to make work,” Snyder said. “It’s going to catch on slowly but it’s not going to be like the Truckee River experience.” Snyder said he’s already observed a niche of sorts developing with play-boaters in mini-kayaks using the rapids like a skate park to do stunts in the water. “They can do what they do in one spot and stay there,” he said. PARC is putting more information on its Web site about the recreational possibilities at China Bar and has plans to erect a large metal sign at the confluence to give canyon users more information on boating possibilities, Peach said. For Sunday’s free-access day, there will be no shuttle to the water this year. Instead, the public is invited to use their own transportation and carpool to get to the shoreline and park in the lot about half a mile uphill. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com ---------- What: 18th annual American River Confluence Festival in Auburn When: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. today Where: American River Overlook Park, Pacific Avenue, Auburn Admission: Free