Rafting Gone Wild forced to kick its alcohol addiction–will it comply?

Sorry kids, Old Man Government is here to rain on your drunk parade.

The same day that a massive Sacramento river party’s “secret” July 13 date was no longer secret—organizers set the Saturday following the July 4 weekend as the date for the social media-driven river crawl the two previous years—Sacramento County’s regional parks director made good on a promise to take the “wild” out of “Rafting Gone Wild.”

Last summer the combination of rubber rafts, cold beers and 3,500 suds-soaked 20- and 30-somethings turned the American River into a National Lampoon’s version of Apocalypse Now. Multiple brawls kicked off, the river was trashed with bottles and bodily fluids, dozens were arrested and detained, and one dude catapulted himself head-first into a cop car windshield. It was epic. Embarrassingly so.

As a result, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors empowered regional parks director Jeff Leatherman to call out booze prohibitions for event-specific dates.

In a July 11 release, Leatherman’s office said the alcohol restriction was attached specifically to Rafting Gone Wild, “a non-permitted event.” The prohibition will be in place July 13 along the American River Parkway from Hazel Avenue to Watt Avenue.

In an earlier interview with SN&R, Leatherman said there’s certain criteria to enacting such bans, but knowing the date of an event beforehand isn’t necessarily one of them.

“There isn’t a specific requirement associated with how many days in advance or anything like that,” he said.

Meaning Rafting Gone Wild organizers’ efforts to keep this one secret until the last possible moment—asking interested parties to sign up for an RSVP on RGW’s Facebook page—was for naught.

Speaking of Facebook, nearly 1,500 people were signed up to attend Saturday’s dry river crawl as of midday July 11, with 300 folks registered as “maybes.” Assuming those numbers hold, that’s a big drop-off from the previous two years, when estimates hovered between 3,000 and 4,000.

In response to speculation that an alcohol ban would happen, RGW organizers advised attendees on their Facebook page to be “creative,” and suggested donations to the American River Parkway Foundation as a way to drum up good press. One expected attendee referred to a “pre-party.”

Whether people try to sneak in booze or not, it seems forced sobriety is kneecapping the excitement for this year’s Rafting Gone Wild. Although if you’ve ever seen a drunk go through withdrawals, there’s still reason to worry.

“Consumption of significant amounts of alcohol on the river is never a good idea, regardless of what day of the week it is,” Leatherman offered. “Our hope is that people make wise choices when they’re enjoying what we have right in the middle of Sacramento. We’re going to do our part—and we have to—to foster those decisions.”

Who knew the American River could be so dry?

Our content is free, but not free to produce

If you value our local news, arts and entertainment coverage, become an SN&R supporter with a one-time or recurring donation. Help us keep our reporters at work, bringing you the stories that need to be told.


Stay Updated

For the latest local news, arts and entertainment, sign up for our newsletter.
We'll tell you the story behind the story.