Too toasty: Sacramentans take to the river

The calendar says it’s still spring, but Sacramento’s summer furnace flipped on this week.

Monday’s high temperature of 106 in downtown Sacramento broke the previous record of 103 degrees for June 9, which was set in 1883. Sunday’s 104-degree heat was followed by a stifling night in which the region’s famed Delta breeze failed to arrive, leaving the nighttime low at a relatively high 69 degrees.

The heat is expected to ease starting today. “Certainly this is the hottest period we’ve had this year, but we are going to be trending downwards,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Kurth. “We’re going to be closer to that normal level by Thursday, and then by the weekend we’ll be back above normal.”

People who were not ensconced in offices and classrooms Monday were looking to cool off. The American River, Sacramento’s aquatic playground, was as usual a favored spot. They found a river with a surprising amount of cool water despite the lack of rain and skimpy snowpack.

That’s because the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is letting water flow out of Folsom Dam this month about twice as fast as it is flowing in from the American River watershed upstream. The agency isn’t doing this to benefit swimmers or boaters, or the communities that depend on the river for their water supply. The higher flows are designed to satisfy state rules about how salty the water can be downstream in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The water level in Folsom Lake is dropping about four inches a day as a result. Reclamation spokeswoman Janet Sierzputowski said she expects the higher water releases to continue until the end of June. About that same time, the water in Folsom Lake will become too shallow to launch boats, a month earlier than it did last year.

So enjoy it while you can, Sacramento.

‘Turn that sun down’

A sparse crowd spread along the American River at Discovery Park Monday around noon. Some people were taking advantage of a day off. Nicole Corona of Sacramento brought her whole family, including her father’s Chihuahua, Harley. “We don’t have a pool, so this was our last attempt to escape the heat,” she said.

Her father, Fred Williams, and Harley were looking to cool off after driving from their home in Arizona to visit the family. “After driving 1,000 miles, I want to see some water,” Williams said.

Even with the extra releases from Folsom Dam, Evan Caldwell, 17, complained that the low water level was making it harder for him to catch fish. “I honestly haven’t seen a single striper,” said Caldwell, who arrived in the early morning. “You usually see large schools of them around here.”

Still, Caldwell, who just graduated from Sacramento’s School of Engineering & Sciences, plans to return three to four times a week. “It’s nice that there’s a beach,” Caldwell said. “It makes it a great place to swim and fish.”

Discovery Park is also a destination for families with antsy children now that school’s out. Joseph Bettencourt of West Sacramento brought his two children Monday for the first time. “They don’t want to leave now,” he said.

Bettencourt likes that the water at Discovery Park is shallow and open. Boat riders also seem to have respect for swimmers, he said.

Some people just came to sit. Steve Larsen, who works downtown, eats his lunch in the shade three to four times a week.

“I like the scenery,” he said Monday. “I like the quiet and the fresh air. It’s a great place to get away from work.”

Across the American River in West Sacramento, Al Goodman had a request. “Do me favor,” said Goodman, who was docked on his friend’s boat at the Broderick launching ramp. “Reach up and turn that sun down.”

Secluded beach

Pushed to the water by the heat, persistent families wound their way to Paradise Beach on the American River through a maze of sandy pathways and shrubbery.

The beach is about a 10-minute walk from Glenn Hall Park in the River Park neighborhood, but the winding sand pathways obscure it from people who don’t know it’s there.

Kandice Davis, who moved to Sacramento in January, had never been to Paradise Beach but read about it on a website and decided to bring her niece and nephew-in-law, who were visiting from Georgia. “The site didn’t mention how far the walk was, we were like ‘Oh God, it doesn’t exist,’ ” Davis said. “We’re still afraid we’re never going to find the car again.”

On Monday afternoon, the group had the secluded beach almost to themselves. Canada geese were the sole inhabitants when they arrived, and only one other family came to share the gravelly strip along the water.

Jesse Beltran, 45, of Elk Grove took his family to spend the afternoon cooling off. “It’s a traditional spot, back from high school and my childhood days,” Beltran said.

His daughter, Kira, 13, said the chance to swim in the river was worth the trek across the sandy hills.

“I thought we were there after the first hill, and then the second one,” Kira said. She and her siblings complained about the walk as they carried chairs and towels to the water, but Kira said she hopes to come back often now that it is summer break.

‘It’s really hot’

The temperature rose with the scorching sun as the Upper Sunrise American River access parking lot filled up around noon on Monday.

Down the first trail leading to the river, Brittney Wagner, 25, and Brent Wilson, 24, both of midtown Sacramento, said they decided to visit Sunrise with their black Labrador retriever to get away from bustling midtown spots.

“The river spots down by where we live in midtown are so crazy now,” she said. “We go there in the winter with our dogs and it’s lovely, and in the summer it’s like everyone comes down there with trash and bottles.”

Near the boat launching point, Rick Wise, 46, of Rancho Cordova prepared for a quick kayaking and fishing trip before his work day began.

“I’m here to cool off,” said Wise, who is a self-employed electrician. “Quick kayak, quick fish for about an hour and a half before I have to go home.”

Wise in an avid angler who visits the river at least every weekend, especially in the warm months because he enjoys the heat, he said.

Unlike Wise, Jessica Dunsmore, 24, of Elk Grove said she had never been on the river before Monday. Dunsmore typically spends hot days in an air-conditioned apartment.

Dunsmore and a group of her friends were inflating a raft on the shore.

“I don’t remember it being this hot last summer,” Dunsmore said. “It was like this hot in July.”

‘It’s perfect’

About twice a week, Amy Chaverri and her son, Braeden, drive a few minutes from their home nearby to the Sacramento State Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma in Gold River. They rent kayaks or paddleboard in the cool reservoir just above Nimbus Dam.

Now that Braeden, a student at Sutter Middle School in Folsom, is done with school for the summer, he and his mother can come to the river during the day when she’s off work. During the week, there are fewer people crowding the beach or kayaking.

“Sometimes you go out to Folsom Lake and it’s so crowded,” Amy Chaverri said. “Now there’s nobody out here, so it’s perfect.”

Renting kayaks for a few hours is a good way, Chaverri said, to spend time with her son without burning a hole in her pocket. “It’s just a great way to have fun and not spend a bunch of money,” she said. “I like that it’s local, and it’s safe for the kids.”

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