Fun and Safety on the Kings River

Jul 31, 2010 | 2010 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Community, Lorie Lewis Ham, Reedley News

by Lorie Lewis Ham

The wild and scenic Kings RiverAs summer starts to wind down, people continue to flock to the Kings River to find relief from the heat and have fun. The opportunities on the River are numerous and many are very close to home. While some of those opportunities are soon ending for the summer, it’s a perfect time to start making plans for next year.

The Kings River Conservancy (KRC) recently opened up Thorburn Access Park, which was its first major project. Located on the northeast corner of the Kings River and Highway 180, just upriver from the Kings River Bridge, it sits on a 7.39-acre parcel owned by Fresno County and managed by KRC. “The Thorburn Access Park was named in honor of the vision of the Thorburn family and their key contributions that helped make the park a reality,” said Wendy Sheridan, KRC Public Outreach Director. The Park offers a 35-stall parking area, restrooms, information kiosk, five picnic tables, a trail with access to the river for non-motorized craft as well as catch and release fishing.

The Conservancy offers a Summer Float Program that provides education and fun. The final trip of the season, a Riverside BBQ, is the only one remaining this summer. This short float will go from Pine Flat Dam to the Lapp House on Saturday, August 7th from 4:00 to 8:00pm. KRC members Greg and Deborah Lapp own property along the river, midway between the dam and Cobbles Weir, where they will host the Riverside BBQ dinner at the end of the trip. Kayaks and life-jackets are provided for all floats and activities. All trips are for 16 years or older and require reservations. Trip #5, the Riverside BBQ, costs $50 which includes dinner. Dinner only for Trip #5 is $25. Call 559-787-9500 for reservations or if you have any questions.

Recently, Reedley residents Denny and Bob Mason took advantage of one of the float trips. “Bob and I spent our Sunday afternoon floating down the Kings River on a pontoon (officially dubbed the ‘Blue Boat’),” said Denny. “What a relaxing way to pass the hot, sunny day!” They were picked up at 3:30 at Kelly’s Beach Resort and driven to a spot on the Kings close to Goodfellow where they boarded a motorized flat-bottomed boat that was equipped with life-jackets, oars and an ice chest of cold drinking water. Their three-hour float included a stop on an island to explore and cool off in the water and a stop to pick up snacks for the rest of the ride. “We learned interesting tidbits about life on the river and its history, saw many birds and plants along the way and pulled back into Kelly’s Beach about 7:00pm. I highly recommend it!”

Kings River at Kelly's Beach

Kelly’s also has much to offer in the way of fun. The Resort offers a place to camp along the river, a picnic area and activities such as volleyball and horseshoes (equipment is available for rent). There is also an onsite store which sells groceries, camping supplies, rafting equipment and more. If you are looking for a little nightlife, Kelly’s Restaurant and Tavern offers Disco Fridays, Karaoke Wednesdays and Saturdays, as well as lunch and dinner served from 10am to 10pm.

Reedley teen Jesikah Chafa loves to go floating on the Kings River. “When you are there, it gives you a feeling of connection, to God and nature, at least it does for me. It is fun to feel the water beneath you as you float along with your friends.” However, she stresses it is important to be safe while doing so.

“KRC encourages safe recreation practices on and along the river at all times,” said Wendy. Safety guidelines and regulations are posted at the Thorburn Access Park. The Kelly’s Beach website also offers important safety tips for your fun time on the river.

Reedley Fire Chief Jerry Isaak knows “everyone from children to adults will be looking for a place to cool off” and reminds us that there are safety concerns:

“The River presents as a meandering and serene waterway but can be very dangerous. Its beach areas are very popular with families and young children yet, in the water, the ever-changing sandy river floor can have very steep drop-offs that surprise even the best of swimmers. The banks of Cricket Hollow and Smith’s Ferry Parks are very steep as well and swimming is highly discouraged and not allowed in some areas. The water temperature is usually in the low to mid 40s Fahrenheit. A sudden plunge into the cold water can take your breath away and cause panic, while prolonged exposure to cold water can result in hypothermia.”

Chief Isaak offers the following safety tips for local beaches:

  • Learn how to swim and use approved safety vests
  • Swim with others — never by yourself
  • Only swim in designated areas
  • Watch children closely at all times
  • Children should always wear an approved safety vest
  • Never dive or swim in unknown waters
  • Protect your skin from the sun
  • Drink plenty of water

The Chief reminds those who like to float down the river that extra safety precautions should be considered:

  • Never float alone
  • Wear an approved life jacket
  • Do not overload the raft
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times
  • Stay near the middle of the river to avoid bushes and trees
  • Never tie rafts or tubes together
  • Avoid consuming alcohol
  • Only float in designated areas
  • Most importantly, tell someone where you are going, when you expect to return and where to call if you don’t.

KRE logoWhitewater rafting is another exciting way to enjoy the Kings River. Currently owned by Justin and Julie Butchert, Kings River Expeditions (KRE) was the first to offer whitewater rafting trips on the Kings River in 1972. Justin started guiding river trips in 1978 and still kayaks along with most KRE expeditions. He purchased the business in 1981 and married Julie in 1995. She has been guiding trips on the Kings River since 1991. “We run about April 1st through July or August, depending on the snowpack. This year, we got a great snowpack so we will quit August 18th,” shared Justin. “This is a great service-oriented business combined with outdoor adventure — that is what attracted me to the business.”

“We are unique from most of our competitors simply because of the levels of service and detail that go into every trip we run,” continued Justin. “We are truly hands-on owners; Julie runs the office during the week and will be the one answering the phone when people call, and my three daughters and I are in camp and usually on the river with just about every trip we run. We serve excellent meals, have beer and wine on our full-service trips, do evening entertainment on our big trips, provide photos, DVDs, t-shirts, etc.”

Don’t miss Kings River Life contributor Brian Wall’s first-hand account of one of their trips from his own whitewater rafting adventure this past Sunday. If you have access to the Kings River, take advantage of the many fun ways to beat the heat but stay safe!

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds.

1 Comment

  1. Hi, my son Shiloh & are now offering raft rentals @ the Goodfellow Ave site which we recently leased for floats down to Kellys / Wake House. We also will continue to provide services to those that want to bring their own tube / raft. Rates are $5 parking, $10pp which includes launch /bus shuttle /inflation of your tube etc. We also own Sunshine Rafting Adventures on the Stanislaus river – see website


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