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American River access point opens two months early

Recreation area, advocate group agree to maintain China Bar for north fork boaters
By: Andrew Westrope, Staff Writer
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Spring has come early this year for Auburn State Recreation Area boaters.

The China Bar, an access point in the north fork of the American River, was opened two months early on Saturday thanks to a partnership between the recreation area and Protect American River Canyons (PARC), an Auburn-based advocate group of the north and middle forks of the American River.

PARC has agreed to cover any negative difference between the recreation area’s revenue and operating costs for the next two months.

PARC volunteer Eric Peach said he hopes people take advantage of the early opening and pay any necessary fees to support the park. The decision to open early came from a combination of natural and economic factors: conditions on the north fork of the river are optimal right now, and people said they wanted to use it. Peach said the operating costs will be less than $100 a day and expects it will be worth the trouble.

“We’re doing that because we’ve had a lot of requests from the boating community to get that open, and the businesses that serve that area also. We did meet with state parks, a group of us, and the City of Auburn, and this is a result of that meeting,” he said. “The weather has been good and warm, and the spring flows have been up there so that people can paddle that stretch of river any time during the day, whereas in the summertime, dam releases … don’t come down until about 5 p.m. or so.”

China Bar will remain open every Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. until sunset for the rest of the season.

Scott Liske, a supervising ranger for the recreation area, said the costs of opening two months early involve maintenance of trash and restrooms, ranger patrol, clearing the area and closing the gate at night. But with no financial risk to the recreation area and no need for boaters to drift another 12 or so miles to Granite Bay to take out, he said the agreement is good news for all concerned.

“It’s a win for the boater crowd, because this time of year, typically the north fork is running at some of its best flows. This is allowing boaters to launch at the confluence and take out at China Bar,” Liske said. “If China Bar was closed, someone who would launch a boat would have to go all the way down to Granite Bay, which might be a total of 12 river miles.”

PARC also hosted a four-mile group paddle on Saturday from the confluence to the China Bar to inaugurate the early opening, and has planned a hike at Windy Point Meadow for today. Peach said the hike will be three miles round trip and “moderately strenuous” with a few short, steep sections and narrow spots, but expected it would include a “spectacular” wildflower display. The group will stop for lunch after crossing George’s Creek. Participants will meet at the Interstate-80 Bowman Exit Park & Ride near the Cal Fire headquarters at 11 a.m.