Ranger patrols Auburn's whitewater

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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Bill Deitchman spends a lot of time on the river; you could call him the rafting ranger. Two days a week, as part of his job, Deitchman and an assistant raft the north, south, and middle forks of the American River, as the forks run through the Auburn State Recreation Area. Deitchman is a California State Park Ranger and is the Auburn State Recreation Area ranger in charge of the park’s white water rafting program. It’s not always fun and sunshine, though he enjoys his job most of the time. Part of Deitchman’s job also entails issuing and administrating permits to the 35 or so concession contracts to commercial rafting outfitters running the local rivers, and supervising the commercial whitewater companies that run the rivers during the March through October season. “We check to make sure they’re qualified and have the experience on the type of river they would be running here with us,” he explained. “Each of the north and middle fork rivers have class 2 and class 4 sections. We make sure they are qualified for the permit they’re getting, and have the experience to run these rivers.” His duties include making sure that rafting companies are equipped to safely take people down the rivers. Deitchman also makes sure commercial rafting outfits have the proper insurance coverage and that their state required bonds are current. All the outfitters must also have proper training and safety equipment necessary to commercially run the rivers. A couple of days a week, during the rafting season, Deitchman patrols the north, middle and south forks of the American River with a senior aid checking high water levels and safety practices on the river. He also checks on non-rafting issues including making sure folks have current fishing licenses, checking for illegal camping along the river and, when suction dredging was legal on the river, he would check for permits. “It’s just like what we would be doing while patrolling the park in a vehicle, but we’re patrolling the rivers in a raft,” Deitchman said. Deitchman has been a California State Park Ranger since 1995, starting his first assignment at the Red Rock Canyon State Park in Southern California. Deitchman then got his job in Auburn State Park and began working in the whitewater recreation office in 1997, after being employed in the medical and law fields. He has a bachelor of science degree in biology and worked as a licensed EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). Deitchman also worked in the commercial rafting industry from 1976-1983 as a certified guide on the Rogue River in Oregon, the South Fork of the American River, the Stanislaus and the Kern. Deitchman’s rafting guide experience equipped him with the necessary skills to move easily into the whitewater program as a ranger. “I love rafting and am fortunate to still be able to do it and have it as part of my work,” Deitchman said. “It’s a unique position. I don’t know of any other whitewater rangers in the state.”