FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Madera County Sheriff's Office has closed the San Joaquin River for recreational use indefinitely as fast-moving currents continue to raise concerns.
The closure after the sheriffs of Fresno and Merced counties shut down their parts of the river in recent months.
"In response to recent weather events and unprecedented snowmelt. Sheriff Pogue has issued an order closing the San Joaquin River from the friant dam down through Madera County to the Merced County Line," said Lt. Robert Blehm with the Madera County Sheriff's Office.
He said even though the water may appear calm, looks can be deceiving.
"Friant Dam is currently releasing anywhere from 9000 to 10,000 ft. a second freshwater on average weighs 62.4 pounds per square foot. so that represents over a half a million pounds of force coming out of the dam per second. That dissipates as it goes down Stream but the water remains moving incredibly quickly and very strong," said Lt. Blehm.
The river has been the site of many drownings throughout the years, including last summer when a man's body was found in the water near Road 39 1/2
Right now, the water is also cold at about 51 degrees, and debris flowing downstream can also be dangerous.
It's bittersweet news for those who typically enjoy recreating on the river.
"A buddy and I would kind of float down, obviously it's dangerous now, but we take our kayaks to Friant Dam or to Millerton and park there and then park at GB3 in Fresno. Kayak down and cast out as we went," said Fresno resident Jess Tolzmann.
Jayen Duarte drove from Fresno to Madera County to fish along the San Joaquin River but was stopped by signs informing him that it was closed.
"I just started the fishing again. I was trying to find some local spots that are close by and a lot of them are closed off right now because of all the conditions that are going on," said Duarte.
Anyone found on the river during this emergency closure could be arrested for Entering a Closed Area. It's a misdemeanor charge.
While it may be disappointing for those who enjoy the outdoors, first responders say it's a move that is meant to save lives.
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