love&sex - RIVERS OF FIRE

The waters flowing through Sacramento stir our souls, ignite our passions and facilitate our romances

The American River Parkway is filled with private spots for love or lust.

The American River Parkway is filled with private spots for love or lust.

Photo By Larry Dalton

Every city has a pulse, that one driving force that gives it an identity separate from every other place where people work and live. Sacramento has always taken pride in being the government hub of one of the largest economies on the planet, the center of power in a powerful state.

Yet as summer once again hits the city like a wall of fire, Sacramento’s man-made political identity is consumed by her more natural persona: a place of unbearable heat and seething passion, qualities that are both tempered and fueled by the rivers, the lifeblood of romantics throughout the Sacramento area.

It begins when we shed our clothing to take refuge from the heat in the rivers’ embrace. Just bobbing about on the silky waves inspires our souls and sparks a lusty fire in our veins, even as the cool water soothes our bodies.

Like a new lover, we strive to be near the rivers, to be on them, to be in them, to simply absorb their essence. We revel in feelings of power and powerlessness, feeling the rivers’ strength but knowing we can never possess them. The affair begins thusly, but soon we want more.

Owning a boat means never being without company. Nothing tops the romantic allure of being on a small, private craft under the moonlight and a million stars. Setting adrift with your lover, as the vapid heat of the day fizzles into the brisk night air, is sure to precipitate the need for huddling close together and recreating your own warmth below decks. Or, even better yet, staying up top, brazen to the world. Some wine, the stars and the water are an unbeatable recipe for sizzling romance.

Yet the lack of your own boat doesn’t banish you from romance on the water. Charter cruises are everywhere along the Sacramento River, offering everything from high-energy dancing to romantic candlelight dinners. Some are more crowded than others, but even crowds can’t diminish the river’s lusty appeal. More than a few frenzied couples every year will find their own privacy amidst the ruckus of a jam-packed boat, sating their desire in the most creative of ways.

Sometimes the river serves only as an appetizer for what will come later, an aperitif to the main course. All day and night the cafés and bars that line the banks along the mighty Sacramento River from Verona to Isleton are full of revelers enjoying the view as they try to meet the girl or guy of the moment.

Bikini-clad women sunbathe on the decks of 40-foot yachts while hordes of open bows storm by trying to attract some attention of their own. The hunt is on, and may he with the best boat win (for some, size does matter). Simply put, there is energy and enough sexual tension to bottle and sell.

Yet not every turn of the river is so lurid and hypersexed. In Old Sac, it is easy to find more quiet digs, a place where you might actually be able to have a conversation with someone of the opposite sex. A favorite of mine is the outdoor patio at the Rio City Café, where couples can sip a cool drink after dark while gazing out onto the bright lights that cast their glow upon the water right below the I Street Bridge. Boats come and go, their own lights shining like beacons as they glide past the shore. Someone not inspired by this scene should really check for a pulse.

Occasionally you might need to get imaginative about your spots. One of my all-time fondest memories is of hopping over a railing onto the deck of the Delta King with a gorgeous friend so we could have someplace quiet to talk while enjoying the beauty of the river. Hours later, we were still there, the lapping of the water against the hull providing the perfect backdrop to one of the most romantic nights of my life.

Sometimes, we need to just get away from the city, but not from the power of the rivers. Just a few clicks downriver is the luxurious Ryde Hotel, one of the region’s crown jewels and a spot where lovers can escape for a weekend interlude. Originally built in the 1920s, the hotel has seen presidents, movie stars and mobsters come and go, all seeking the solitude and extravagance of this landmark on the river’s edge. Rumor has it that this place has been everything from a bordello to a speakeasy. These days, the Ryde offers a variety of romance packages to encourage lovers to drive there, or perhaps to cruise their boat into the hotel’s own private dock.

If you should choose to head east, the American River is shallower and less murky than its sister, but its beauty and romance can put the Sacramento to shame. Lovers old and young have flocked to the Rainbow Bridge near Folsom for decades to watch the stars at night, and then to make their own waves as the flowing water rushes below their feet. The bridge is wooden, rickety and screams out loud for someone to be kissing someone.

It’s about a 30-minute trek farther east out of town, but those willing to take a sojourn to the foothills will undoubtedly feel the pull of their hormones along the shores of the American as it winds its way through the canyons of Auburn Ravine, where the river’s north and middle forks make their union.

The beaches that exist at the confluence under the Foresthill Bridge are famous for their clothing-lax atmosphere, as well as their postcard-like scenery. Several lookout points are there, and most are well-hidden enough to conceal whatever activity a couple might devise.

Codfish Creek Falls, a beautiful 60-foot waterfall just above Auburn, is also a nature lover’s delight. Serene, remote and picture perfect during the spring runoff, it is impossible to not feel your heart race when standing there listening to the water pound down the hillside. This is truly a great spot for passionate play, provided you can get some solitude.

Back closer to home, the American’s shores contain a multitude of hidden and precious spots where we find seclusion, lust and sometimes even love. Ancil Hoffman Park, Goethe Park, and just about a million rest stops along the American River Parkway, are all teeming with spots private and not-so-private, depending on your mood.

It’s impossible to mention every great spot on the river for couples to hold hands, kiss or even get seriously busy, but that’s the point. Politics may be this city’s lifeblood, but the rivers are its soul. The rivers have brought life to our fair region forever, stirring our passions and dreams in a way nothing else can. And while we have for the most part tamed our environment, creating a sterile and lifeless stretch of mini-malls and urban sprawl, we are totally incapable of controlling our rivers.

In a way, our waters mirror our own desires as they rise and fall at will, impervious to the borders we try to impose upon them, wild and free at one moment, calm and restrained at another. Our hearts, like our rivers, will forever seek their own paths, regardless of what we think they should do.