Sacramento should temporarily suspend drinking parties on its rivers

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When the good times move outdoors, it’s wilder and more dangerous. That’s been the experience of local law enforcement in responding to Rafting Gone Wild-type parties on the American River in recent years. The events, organized—extremely loosely—on Facebook, sent an estimated 3,000 swimsuit-clad 20-somethings downstream from Rancho Cordova to Sac’s River Bend Park on July 14.

As most now know, there were fights on that recent Saturday—it was described as an “oar-wielding brawl” on MSNBC—which resulted in 23 arrests, along with injuries and a boatload of bad publicity. Rocks were hurled—and rafters even attacked the cops.

Yeah, bad apples. But those bad apples guarantee that the good rafters—the ones who do river cleanup and whose misbehavior is likely limited to not using enough sunscreen and drinking cheap beer—are overlooked.

Here’s the problem: Sacramento has already responded to bad behavior on the river by banning alcohol on major holidays. But this ban has just made things worse; it has lead to unprecedented mega parties organized on social media.

Now, instead of small, individual groups that may occasionally get out of control, we have barely planned extravaganzas for which no one takes responsibility.

And so long as no one is taking responsibility, it’s time for a moratorium on these river rages and rafting-gone-wild blowouts.

A careful examination of the Facebook page for Rafting Gone Wild revealed no individual or group accountable for the floating party. No permits, no security, no organizers, no nothing.

Same goes for a planned Rage on the River event on August 26, near Discovery Park; there’s a website (, but no host, planner or responsible persons.

Typically, when you put on an event of this magnitude in Sacramento, there’s red tape: event and alcohol permits, police, toilets, security, liability insurance, cleanup crews, city or county fees, etc. Just ask anyone who’s put on such an event: It’s a hassle.

That’s because when there’s no regulation—no one in charge—things tend to get out of hand. Events involve a host of issues, and, it’s not nearly as exciting as simply making a Facebook page and having 3,000 of your closest buddies show up with the booze.

These large-scale parties also end up dominating the river. They attract the handful of jackasses who can ruin anyone, or everyone’s, day. Nature lovers. Families. Even law enforcement: jurisdictions up and down the river are forced to get involved, costing taxpayer dollars.

We’ve been struggling with how to handle these river parties, because we hate to ruin anyone’s good time. But the American River is not a backyard pool. If these parties continue, it is not a question of if someone will be hurt or killed, but when.

We also don’t want to ban alcohol on the river. Dad and Mom should be able to have a beer or two while fishing. But if banning the party is what it takes to get things under control, so be it.

As for the individual right to party? It exists only on private property. That’s not the American River.