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Inaugural fest churns whitewater thrills on American River

By: Gus Thomson, Journal staff writer
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The American River in the canyon below Auburn will be where the action is this weekend during the inaugural Auburn River Festival. It’s a stretch of river – restored as part of Placer County’s $72 million pump station project – that deserves to get more use than it does, said kayaker and Auburn resident Heather Snow. “I think we have an amazing play park in our backyard but State Parks doesn’t allow a lot of access,” Snow said. This weekend, though, a little-used road on the Cool side of the American River canyon will provide access to the China Bar area, where everything from slalom kayaking, swiftwater rescue competition and a downriver race from the confluence will be allowed. A whitewater course was planned and created as part of the pump station project, using the channel and giant rocks brought in from elsewhere on the site. Guy Cables, an Auburn kayak rental business owner and member of the newly formed Access For All committee, said the festival’s goal is to raise awareness about the recreational opportunities at China Bar and push for a long-promised bridge over the river. Snow said that she would use the area more if she had a way to drive down to China Bar. The state Parks Department will allow that access on Friday to participants and then on Saturday and Sunday for participants and spectators. While the event is free, $5 per car will be charged by the Parks Department as a user fee. The area is part of the Auburn State Recreation Area, administered by the state Parks Department. Cables and others believe China Bar is a world-class whitewater play park. Cables said the festival will provide a needed opportunity for boaters and members of the public to see its possibilities. Saturday’s schedule includes a race from the American River confluence starting at 10 a.m. and the boaters cross race at China Bar starting at 3 p.m. Sunday will include kayak slalom races starting at 10 a.m. and the rescue competition. All profits generated from the festival will go to promote improved access in the canyon, Cables said. -------------------------------------- Auburn River Festival When: Saturday and Sunday Admission: Free to event but $5 a car State Parks user fee What: Saturday, 10 a.m. downriver race from confluence to China Bar; noon, whitewater rodeo; 3 p.m. boater cross race. Sunday, 10 a.m. kayak slalom; noon, swiftwater rescue competition