American River Raft Rentals has been a Sacramento staple for water cannon-toting rafting enthusiasts since 1974. With new social distancing and other precautions in place, owners Sarah Hahn and Kent Hansen, who bought the business in 2018, have decided to franchise the business nationwide.
“There is a very big market for this,” Hansen says. “Since we don’t put guides in boats, it’s very replicable. We have become the masters of safety and stewardship and we believe there should be a higher standard for operations.”
Rafters have always flocked to the American River for the three- to four-hour floats starting at the Sunrise Bridge and down to River Bend Park, a mostly easy, family-friendly ride with a little thrill through the San Juan Rapids.
Happily, because of the need to keep saltwater out of the Delta to protect fish flows, enough water is released from the upstream dams to accommodate recreational use, even in times of drought, Hansen says.
Because of the pandemic, the company has gone to extensive lengths to make the experience as safe as possible for rafters, including prohibiting tying rafts together, adding shuttles and sanitizing after each shuttle trip. They also have streamlined the process so that renters do not need to stand in line at the rental office but can register in advance online and have their raft waiting for them. They also offer GPS on the river.
Once on the water, though, it’s pretty much business as usual along the scenic American River Parkway with myriad wildlife sightings and maybe even an all-out water cannon fight.
American River Raft Rentals
Location: 11257 S. Bridge St., Rancho Cordova
Reservations: Recommended for weekends and holidays
Price: Ranging from $74 for a two-person craft and $207 for a raft for 12, plus fees
Alcohol: Prohibited Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day weekends
Shuttle: Return shuttle service 1–6 p.m. Tickets, $10 per person, must be purchased in advance
Parking: Free for rental customers
More information: raftrentals.com
Other Fun Outdoor Recreation
Dance on the Edge
These free outdoor dance events run second Saturdays 6–10 p.m. on the Old Sacramento Waterfront boardwalk. There’s a heavy focus on salsa with a little bachata, merengue and reggaeton thrown in; everyone is welcome to join. Evenings start with a 45-minute lesson, then blossom into a full-fledged dance party, now with social distancing measures in place. No tickets needed. Just show up! While you’re there, look for the newly added Giant Jenga, cornhole and Adirondack chairs along the Sacramento River embarcadero.
Effie Yeaw Nature Center
If you want a little nature escape but don’t feel like driving out of town, Effie Yeaw Nature Center on the American River in Carmichael is a perfect family-oriented choice. Part of a 100-acre nature preserve, its easy-to-navigate trails meander through riparian woodlands and meadows and to the edge of aquatic habitats and the shore of the American River. Deer and wild turkeys delight visitors, and benches are situated throughout for rest and meditative reflection. Open Tuesday–Sunday 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Parking is $5. 2850 San Lorenzo Way, Carmichael. sacnaturecenter.net