An army of law enforcement and fire rescue officials are combing access points along the American River today, working to uphold the July 4 ban on alcohol and prevent additional drownings as thousands flock to the water in rafts, kayaks and flimsy pool toys.
No serious problems were reported early, and park rangers and police said that today's revelry is turning out more like a family day on the river rather than a drunken festival of young people, which had been the case in past years.
Part of the calmer atmosphere stems from the fact that the holiday comes at midweek, but officials said the five-year-old ban on drinking alcohol on the river during summer holidays has helped immensely.
"This is beginning to form a trend," said Timothy McElheney, a Sacramento County park ranger who was at the Sunrise access point today asking rafters for a peek inside their coolers and rafts. "People are getting the message."
In years past, it was common to see rafters who were inspected by law enforcement pouring out their precious cases of beer and wine coolers or trudging back to place them in their vehicles before hitting the water.
Today, there were few such incidents, and the biggest concern was trying to convince rafters to wear life jackets rather than just dump them in their boats and use them as cushions.
In the past week alone, two people have drowned in the American River, and Sacramento Metro Fire volunteers were out in force today handing out free loaner life jackets.
Boaters were reminded that anyone rafting the river must have a life jacket with them, even if they don't wear them, and that anyone under 13 must wear one on the water.
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