Warning to would-be white water rafters

Because of the recent massive Sierra snowpack, California is about to have one of the best white water rafting seasons ever, which will draw people from all over the world. Many Bay Area folks will be going too.

But don't try this on your own - unless you are seasoned, experienced and respectful of nature river runners.  

"Our water is going to be so much bigger than it was before. It's going to be a completely new experience," said Matthew Romo of Action Whitewater Adventures.

In fact, it will be so big; go with one of the many professional companies for fun and safety. 

"We have all the safety equipment. We have some of the best guides in the world working for us.  Our guides are all swift water rescue certified which means they're well-prepared for any situation that could come up on the river," said Romo.

Eleanor Bonifacio is glad she did just that on a white water excursion. 

"We hit a rough part that they predicted was going to be rough, and we just bounced right out. Everything tipped over and the next thing you know, we're just swimming for our lives," said Bonifacio. 


She says the successful outcome was thanks to the professional guides…

"I wouldn't be here. I mean I'm a good swimmer."

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration River Forecast Center says Sierra River flows will last a lot longer and flow much faster. 

"So, colder temperatures are going to be expected on the rivers farther into summer that perhaps we've had in the past years and there's going to be more flow as well," said NOAA River Forecast Center Hydrologist Nathan Patrick.

Yet, many people go in cheap, store-bought rafts, inner tubes and floats unaware of five killers: fast flows, unforgiving rapids, massive rocks and partially submerged trees and bushes that drag victims under icy cold water. 

"Depending on where you are in the river stream, it could be just above freezing or further downstream obviously it could be ten or fifteen degrees warmer," said hydrologist Patrick.


Julie Munger trains swift water rescue raft and first responder crews. 

"One of the big hazards is that cold water shock that happens right when you hit the water and that's when a lot of the incidents go downhill basically," said Munger.

Do-it-yourself rafters, kayakers and swimmers are the most common victims. 

"It's a complete fool's errand actually, and it generally leads to tragedy," said Munger.

So, unless you have a lot of experience in wet water activity, or at least go with professionals, you shouldn't go at all, because the river may want to claim you. 

Whitewater rafting in Northern California.