AUBURN (CBS13) – The tumultuous waters that flow through the Auburn State Recreation Area attract many visitors who may not be aware of how risky swimming can be.
For the first time in the history of California State Park, two whitewater rescuers watch the dangerous waters. They are highly trained and stationed in the Auburn State Recreation Area. They are the only such lifeguards in the entire California state park system.
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“There are a lot of foot patrols on these beaches here in Middle and North Fork,” said Gordon Pershall, one of the lifeguards.
Pershall and his partner Wyatt Jackson use teamwork to save swimmers trapped by rising waters or debris.
“We’re here primarily to be on the preventative side, to try to reduce the number of actual rescues that are happening here,” Jackson said.
They are equipped with helmets, life jackets and rope.
“The rescues here are a lot more technical,” Jackson said.
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They are ready to throw themselves into the water in pursuit of a swimmer in distress.
“They’re raising the river for rafting and that’s when we find people having trouble, when they got out on rocks and can’t come back safely,” said Pershall.
Sgt. Lauren Shoemaker of the Auburn State Recreation Area said Wyatt and Gordon provide immediate eyes and ears on the ground during an emergency.
“We have seen an increase in recreation and visits to the park,” she said.
They give crucial information to other first responders called for help.
“Although we have lifeguards here, we like to say that it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to come here all the time. You should check the weather conditions, the flows, ”Sgt. said the shoemaker.
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Auburn State Recreation Area leaders say they hope to expand this lifeguard program locally and say it could lead to faster lifeguard programs statewide.