By Steve Large

COLOMA (CBS13) – There’s a big difference on local rivers this Memorial Day weekend: The massive melting snowpack is creating fast and cold rapids for rafters and kayakers.

In Coloma along the South Fork of the American River, caution signs are posted reading “Cold, Fast Water.”

CBS13 was there as one kayaker ended up rolling over in the rapids.

“It was awesome, a little cold,” kayaker Eric Winkler said. “It’s fast.”

Right now, that summertime splash on the South Fork of the American River has a little more sting.

“The river’s really high, really cold right now,” kayaker Lars Bolster said. “I have a wetsuit on…thermal insulation.”

Melting Sierra snowpack from this winter’s historic storms is now rushing down our rivers.

“I would just say you want to know what you’re doing. If you’ve never been out here before, go with a commercial outfitter,” Bolster said.

For some recreation retailers along the South Fork, the change in conditions is so dramatic they’re changing what they sell. The River Store won’t rent boats with the river level so high.

Kristin Kettenhofen at the River Store says this section of the river is flowing five times higher than it did the past four years. It’s too risky to rent.

“It has been interesting for sure. It’s definitely cut down the people who’ve been allowed to take out demo boats, but that being said, we are seeing a good local presence in our store, which is nice,” Kettenhofen said.

Personal floating devices have been the biggest seller.

It’s the South Fork’s summer-time fun, with a big dose of caution.



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