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Nude beach threatened by new raft-outfitter presence on American River?

Commercial rafts allowed to pass beach favored by nude sunbathers for more than three decades
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Whitewater rafters on a new route opened up on the American River near Auburn have a different landmark some are choosing to avert their eyes from. It?s a nude beach tucked away between two rock outcroppings about a half-mile from the confluence of the American River?s north and middle forks and accessible by a steep, narrow trail. A recent rafting excursion by Auburn?s Whitewater Excitement revealed six nude sunbathers, nonchalantly catching some rays au natural, as adults and children paddled by. On Monday, the beach itself was innocently occupied by a clothed Roseville father and his three young, clothed children, while yards away, unknown to them, a man was sitting on a rock naked ? except for a pair of sandals. The man with the sandals declined an interview with the Auburn Journal. The father ? Manuel Slor of Roseville ? said he was unaware of a naked man nearby or the fact that on many hot days, nude sunbathers take over the sandy shoreline. ?It?s private, not too many people around, the water?s calm,? Slor said. ?It?s a good swimming area for the kids. It?s my second time here ? I do a lot of running and figured this was a good spot ? and I?ve never seen anyone naked around here.? Slor said it was a little surprising to find out that the beach was a destination for people who like to sunbathe in the buff. ?I wish it wasn?t,? Slor said. ?I?d hate to stumble on it when I?m with the kids.? Whitewater Excitement is one of eight rafting outfitters granted permits to the new route on the American River between the confluence and China Bar last month. Commercial trips should be regularly making the run and passing the nude beach this summer. Over the past three decades, nude sunbathers ? their ranks predominantly male ? have used the beach at the Auburn State Recreation Area as a haven. From the 1970s until 2008, the stretch of river was closed to recreational boaters because of Auburn dam construction and then because a two-thirds-of-a-mile-long tunnel diverting the river underground created a dangerous attraction. But when the Placer County Water Agency?s pump station and river restoration project was completed, the tunnel was closed, allowing the river to again open for boaters. The Internet has spread the word about the American River?s unclothed beach. But if you?re not a long-time Auburn-area resident or canyon user ? or aren?t trolling the Internet for nude beach sites ? you may never have heard of the clothing-optional beach on the American River. Thomas Bayne and Ellie Wyman, both of Grass Valley, and Brittany Shields of Auburn, were enjoying the prospects of a clothed splash in the river?s cool water Monday on a day that promised the possibility of triple-digit temperatures. None in the group had heard of the nude beach and weren?t concerned that it was there. Bayne said that Mothers Beach and others on the Yuba River are well-known for attracting nude sun worshippers. ?They?re pretty much accepted,? Bayne said. ?The general rule is that if you hike out 15 minutes that you?ll have to learn to accept they are there. And if it bothers you, then don?t look. Children won?t be horribly scarred if they see sex organs when they watch movies where people get blown up.? Shields said she didn?t consider the nude beach question an issue. ?It?s natural,? Shields said. ?And I agree that violence is much worse.? Wyman said she considered the fact that there are nude beaches a natural offshoot of living away from an urban area. ?It?s one of the cool things about living out here ? that there are places you can do that,? Wyman said. ?If you want to, you can go out in nature and chill. In the city, you can?t do that.? Owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation but overseen by the state Department of Parks and Recreation, the area the nude beach is in has been lightly patrolled in the past. Since 1979, state parks has chosen not to designate clothing-optional areas in state parks. While public nudity is a violation of the law, parks policy is to only act on a complaint from the public. And citations or arrests will be made after attempts are made to elicit voluntary compliance that day, the department?s so-called Cahill Memo on park nudity and subsequent case law makes clear. Online response to the article on opening the river has been mixed, with Darren Johnson writing that state parks will have to enforce decency laws if families are going to run that stretch. The China Bar run could be good for tourism, he said. ?I think this is a long time coming and it is fantastic that the China Bar area will get more use, as they have been threatening to shut down the summer road access for the last couple of years due to the budget,? Johnson said. But Richard Jenkins responded that there needs to be a spot for nude sunbathers. ?The nude beach people should have a place to go where they can enjoy themselves, legally,? Jenkins said. Attempts to reach rafting outfitters Monday for comment were unsuccessful.