By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Stanislaus: Swift, cold & dangerous
McHenry swimming spot among those inundated
Marcus Pedraza shows his shock after jumping into the cold, fast moving water in the Stanislaus River that meanders through McHenry Recreational Area on River Road. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL

ESCALON – Sean Treat is no stranger to the McHenry Recreation Area or the cool current of the Stanislaus River that winds through the secluded park.

As a Modesto native, Treat has been bringing friends and family out to the River Road enclave some 10 miles east of Manteca for the last five years. He appreciates the free usage, the friendly patrons and the BBQ-ready picnic sites that allow for a full day of fun in the sun without hurting his pocketbook.

It’s all about having a good time, he says, without having to spend a lot in the process.

Water flow at almost seven times the normal rate for this time of year coupled with chilly water from the late snow melt has prompted law enforcement to issue a stern advisory about safety and swimming in area rivers including the Stanislaus. The Stanislaus River has already claimed three drowning  victims since the start of summer.

“You can really come out here and some good, quality family fun. It’s pretty quiet on the weekdays which is nice, but having fun with the people on the weekends is cool too,” said Treat. “Instead of having to spend $20-a-person to go somewhere you can spend 20 bucks on food and $3 in gas and you’ve got a day out of it. There really aren’t very many other places where you’re going to be able to do that.”

With several friends and their kids in their group, routine trips to the beach – which now sits under nearly a foot of water with the increased flow – to cool off were a must in the hot Friday afternoon sun.

Hot coals still simmered on the BBQ while parents kept a close eye on their kids and made sure they didn’t stray too far out into the fast moving water. A sign at the park entrance stressed the importance of wearing lifejackets – noting that the normal flow of the river is just 300 cubic-feet per second compared with the 2000 cubic-feet per second that is rushing through now.

That current was just fine for Jose Solorio and Blanca Benetiz of Manteca who dropped in upstream on an inflatable raft and floated down to near the entrance of the park before getting out and trekking back up to their car.

“This is one of the only places that I know of, but I like it because it’s calm and it’s scenic and I really enjoy coming out here,” Solorio said – still clutching the raft. “It’s a great shady place to come on a hot day. I usually make it out here twice a month.”

Escalon’s Matthew Falltisek, who says he comes out to the river regularly to swim with friends and to bring his dogs to cool off, was slightly astonished to see the river as high as it was.

But not even the melting snowpack or the release of water from the reservoirs in the foothills was enough to keep him from getting in on Friday as temperatures inched close to 100 degrees.

“I don’t think that I’ve ever seen the river this high before – it’s just crazy,” Falltisek said. “But I’m a pretty good swimmer. I like coming down here with my dogs and letting them follow me into the water. One of ‘em will go with me anywhere.

“It’s a nice park so sometimes I’ll come down and pick up the trash that other people leave behind because I don’t like seeing it like that. It’s a fun place, and I’m glad that it’s just a hop, skip and a jump from where I live.”

To get to the McHenry Recreation Area, go east on Highway 120 and turn right on Murphy Road. Follow it to the stop sign at River Road and turn left. The park entrance is several miles down on the right side. If you see the Escalon Sportsmen’s Club on the left, or reach McHenry Avenue you’ve gone too far.