Forest Service temporarily closes parts of Tule River in response to recent drownings

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In response to recent tragedies on the Tule River, the U.S. Forest Service has issued a closure order, restricting public access to it in some areas of the Sequoia National Forest. (KFSN)

In response to recent tragedies on the Tule River, the U.S. Forest Service has issued a closure order, restricting public access to it in some areas of the Sequoia National Forest.

The order was signed Thursday night, and became effective Friday.

Signs have already been posted, warning the public to stay out of the river.
The closure includes popular public access areas of the Tule River canyon, such as "the stairs."

In less than a month, three people have drowned in the Tule River.
They all accessed the river by descending "the stairs."

On April 13th, two 21-year-old women from Bakersfield went missing in the river. The body of Shreya Singh was found that day. The family of Alondra Orozco found her body about a week and a half later.

This Wednesday, search and rescue crews recovered the body of another person from Bakersfield: 22-year-old Jose Molina. The Tulare County Sheriff's office says he could be heard yelling for help as he was swept away by the river's fast currents.

In response to the tragedies, and to prevent any more, the Sequoia National Forest Supervisor, in conjunction with the sheriff's office, signed an order that closes public access areas along 15 or so miles of the river, including "the stairs."

"This season, because of the amount of snowpack we have, there's been a lot of spring runoff," said U.S. Forest Service District Ranger Eric La Price. "And the Tule River is flowing very strong, very fast, there's a lot of water volume in there, and it's also very cold."

La Price says the water may look tempting, but it's dangerous, and strong enough to sweep someone right off rocks.

Higher elevation areas are still accessible, but in the closure zone, all areas on both sides of the river are off limits. Any violation can result in a fine or imprisonment.

"There's still snowpack up there on the tops (of the mountains), so we still have a lot of water coming down," La Price said. "We've got warm days ahead of us, a lot more snowmelt, so for a little while the river's still going to be raging."

The closure order is effective through September 30th, but officials say it could be relaxed or lifted before then. They say it will be a weekly discussion, as they monitor the river's flows.

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