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San Joaquin River Open for Recreation Again, but Kings River Still Off Limits
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By Bill McEwen, News Director
Published 10 months ago on
June 16, 2023

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The San Joaquin River below Friant Dam is open again for recreation in Fresno and Madera counties.

However, two parks on the river —Lost Lake Park in Friant and Skaggs Bridge Park in Kerman — will remain closed, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release on Friday.

However, two parks on the river —Lost Lake Park in Friant and Skaggs Bridge Park in Kerman — will remain closed, the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release on Friday.

There is no timetable for reopening the parks, both of which have been damaged by flooding and need repairs.

In addition, the Kings River remains closed because of high, swift, cold flows. Deputies are strictly enforcing the closure and violators will be subject to citations with a minimum fine of $225.

On March 14, Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni declared both rivers off limits because of deadly conditions created by Sierra snowmelt.

Waters Still Pose Dangers

“Although the San Joaquin River is reopened, it is important to note that it remains extremely dangerous,” sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said. “People familiar with the river will notice different water patterns compared to years past. There are numerous downed trees, which create strainers. A strainer is where turbulent water flows through the tree. A person caught in a strainer can quickly find themselves pinned against the tree or even swept underneath it. … Please use good, safe judgment when entering the water.”

Madera County Sheriff Tyson Pogue announced in a Facebook post that the San Joaquin River would reopen for water activities at 5 p.m. Friday.

Pogue cited the river’s reduced flows as the reason for the reopening. Friant Dam has lowered flood releases to less than 7,000 cubic feet per second and they are expected to drop to 4,000 CFS.

Still, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office advises residents to be careful in all of the region’s waterways.

“Madera County has had one drowning at Bass Lake in late April. Many lakes, rivers, and streams are flowing at peak flows and are extremely cold. These increased flows and cold temperatures are extreme hazards that will be with us until late summer,” officials said.

Children Drown on Kings River in May

Last month, 4-year-old Santiago Barajas, and his sister, 8-year-old Victoria Barajas, of Fresno, drowned in the Kings River. The siblings were carried away by a fast-moving current driven by high water levels, authorities said.

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Bill McEwen,
News Director
Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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