Hoisting inner tubes and rafts, they padded down to the American River on Monday in their flip-flops and bikinis – the adults with a long weekend, their children headlong into summer break.
On the first major holiday of the season, hundreds of people pushed into the water and meandered for hours downstream. Men fished from a bridge. A couple picnicked, two mallards underfoot.
“Pretty nice,” said Alan Bashor, one of the picnickers. “Pretty nice.”
If people drank on the American River Parkway on Memorial Day, it was well-smuggled, with little sign of the debauchery of years past.
A woman fell from a tree swing near Discovery Park on Sunday and was taken to a hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening, and firefighters on Monday extinguished a small fire between the park and Cal Expo fairgrounds, said Michael Doane, Sacramento County’s chief park ranger.
But when a woman dropped her ice chest in front of Doane near a launch site in Rancho Cordova, only water and a Go-Gurt spilled out.
“A little bit lighter weekend than your typical three-day weekend,” Doane said. “It’s been relatively quiet.”
Relatively cool weather kept crowds smaller than in previous years. Sarah Hill, manager at the American River Raft Rentals shop near Sunrise Boulevard, said about 500 people came through the shop on Sunday, slightly less on the holiday.
Alcohol bans approved in 2006 and 2007 for the river and parkway during the Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day holidays resulted in a clientele of mostly families, Hill said.
Graciela Garcia-Torres of Natomas said she chose the holiday to bring her children rafting in part because it “feels safer” without excessive alcohol on the water. Still, she said she warned her children – boys ages 8, 11 and 15 – that they might see someone nude.
The family had yet to launch when a flotilla of about 25 inner tubes full of swimsuit-wearing men became stuck in the support structure of a bridge near Sunrise Boulevard.
They freed themselves within minutes, and one of them yelled up to a fisherman, “You catch anything?”
Randall Fontenot moved his line to avoid ensnaring the revelers below, but he laughed and shot back, “A couple of inner tubes.”
Fontenot and his friend Shawn McPherson had only just arrived at the bridge, searching for stripers.
Catch or not, said McPherson, a propane salesman, “This still beats work.”