Water & Drought

As American River Parkway remains flooded, residents seek higher ground for exercise

American River floods Campus Commons golf course

Campus Commons Golf course remained closed because of flooding on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. The nine-hole course next to the H Street Bridge borders the American River and is prone to water encroachment when river levels get high. With the river st
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Campus Commons Golf course remained closed because of flooding on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. The nine-hole course next to the H Street Bridge borders the American River and is prone to water encroachment when river levels get high. With the river st

With the popular American River Parkway mostly underwater, local residents accustomed to exercising along the waterway will have to find alternate routes for the second straight weekend.

The next major downpour is expected to hit the region Monday, giving people who don’t mind cloudy skies and a light drizzle a chance to get outside before the next downpour.

Amy Rihel, training coordinator for Fleet Feet Sports, said it’s been challenging for runners accustomed to using the parkway to find places to get in their miles.

“We’ve been in this pickle in the last couple of weeks on where to take our groups,” Rihel said. “Land Park has been kind of a lifeline.”

Depending on the desired distance, McKinley Park and Land Park can be big enough to avoid boredom while running loops this Presidents Day weekend, she said, though some of the dirt paths are muddy. The paved trail around North Natomas Regional Park is approximately 2.5 miles, so “even if you’re doing long distance, it doesn’t get too crazy like you’re going in circles all the time,” she said.

Rihel recommended the greenbelt in the Pocket neighborhood, the Clarksburg Branch Pedestrian and Bike Trail in West Sacramento and the Sacramento River Parkway. The last one is not as maintained as the American River Parkway, but it’s paved and “you can get some decent mileage on that,” she said.

For people willing to drive, Rihel suggested heading out to the Auburn and Folsom Lake state recreation areas.

In Auburn, Supervising Park Ranger Scott Liske said rangers are contending with erosion and downed trees on some trails, but the most popular routes are open. The Lake Clementine and Stagecoach Trails offer some dramatic water views.

“One of the unique parts of the Auburn State Recreation Area is the confluence” of the north fork and middle fork of the American River, Liske said. “This time of year, with water on everyone’s mind, you can really see the power of the rivers when the two join up there.”

At Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, trails are open for running, biking and walking.

Farther downstream, Lake Natoma was closed to boaters when flows from Folsom Dam passed 30,000 cubic feet per second.

Brian Dulgar, director of the Sacramento State Aquatic Center at the southwest end of the lake, said the prolonged closure is causing problems for hundreds of rowers who regularly work out on the lake. He has taken teams and equipment up to Folsom Lake to practice, but debris in the water makes it difficult to find smooth spots to train.

“Everything is just coming down from the mountains,” he said.

Families seeking water views and wildlife can finally head to the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Carmichael. It was closed after last week’s storms but will be open this weekend to offer nature classes on Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. The 77-acre preserve’s well-established trails are all open and clear of river water, said Education Director Rachael Cowan.

“It’s muddy in some areas because we did have some deep puddles,” she said.

Dogs and bicycles are not allowed in the preserve, which Cowan said allows for more wildlife because animals are not scared away.

Farther east, bikes are allowed on the Folsom South Canal trail, which City Bicycle Works manager Gordon Ong said is a “popular thing that people are doing these days.”

The trail starts at Sloughhouse Road just outside Rancho Cordova and ends 14 miles later at Gold Country Boulevard near Nimbus Dam. Ong suggested accessing the trail from White Rock Road and Sunrise Boulevard in Rancho Cordova.

Ong said some people are using the above-water parts of the American River Parkway’s Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail despite the closure. But for those who would like to stay on the streets, there’s a generic, surface-road version of the route they can follow. It starts at the Guy West Bridge and runs up American River Drive roughly to Oak Avenue, then up California Avenue to Fair Oaks Boulevard.

“That part of Fair Oaks Boulevard is not so bad,” Ong said. “You take that into Old Fair Oaks and then you can decide what you want to do.”

He suggested crossing the river on the Fair Oaks Bridge and then taking Gold Country Boulevard up to Hazel Avenue at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center, where the parkway’s trail enters the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area.

On the parkway, rangers are holding the status quo through the weekend, said chief Park Ranger Michael Doane. Outflows from Lake Natoma are supposed to hold steady until Tuesday or Wednesday, which he said will limit the impact of upcoming rain on the upper portion of the parkway.

Some parking lots and access areas are open to give people the chance to see the river, but the bike trail and Discovery Park are closed for the long haul. County spokeswoman Kim Nava said the parks department hopes to get Discovery Park open by the end of May, fouling part of Fleet Feet’s traditional route for the Shamrock’n Half Marathon on March 12. Rihel said Fleet Feet is working out a route that avoids flooded areas.

On Thursday, rangers were most concerned about high winds. As rain soaks the ground, the dirt around tree roots gets looser, and the region has seen many large trees fall this winter.

“Every single rain event, we lose more and more trees because the ground is saturated,” Doane said. “The water and wind is continuing to add damage to the parkway that needs to be cleaned up.”

Mile 21 of the American River Parkway is flooded, and the river is flowing fast after early February storms and heavy reservoir releases.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison