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Inmates do their part to float your boat

Christina Proctor

A popular whitewater section of the American River got a face-lift last week with help from a new county inmate work program.

The 7-mile “Kyburz Run,” a class V and IV whitewater section, is 1 1/2 miles downstream from the confluence of the South Fork and Silver Fork below the town of Kyburz. Last winter’s flooding made the already difficult run even more dangerous by depositing a number of fallen logs in the river. The run’s usual heavy use time is March through July.

The logs, called “sweepers and strainers” by whitewater enthusiasts, blocked the main channel of the river.

“They work just like a spaghetti strainer,” Deputy Warren Berg of the El Dorado Sheriff’s Department said. “Just image the kayaker as the spaghetti.”

Berg said when water levels are high, kayakers easily can find themselves trapped if they miss a crucial maneuver. The sheriff’s department boating safety program is charged with reducing water hazards in the county. Berg said every year the snowmelt brings some type of debris into the river, but it is usually one or two logs at the most.

“This winter put six to 12 logs in that section,” Berg said.

The sheriff’s department, with the help of crew supervisors from the California Department of Forestry and a county inmate crew, took advantage of the river’s low flow to remove the logs by hand this week.

The logs removed were held airborne above the riverbed by boulders so Berg said their removal was not an environmental concern.

“They had not created eddies, gravel beds or fish habitat so the Department of Fish and Game approved the removal,” Berg said.

Berg said the removal work started about a mile below the Sand Flat campground and finished just below the 1997 slide. One hazard that could not be reached by the hand crew was a 100-foot log suspended about 6 feet above a deep pool. California Department of Transportation contractor Frehner Construction offered the use of a crane to remove the obstruction.

The Kyburz Run’s take-out point is on the right, just upstream from the bridge at Riverton.

Berg said the timber removed from the river will be cut into firewood and stacked above the river’s high-water mark.


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