The dam-controlled Stanislaus River is running fast and cold below Goodwin Dam in Tuolumne County, and Modesto Fire Department personnel in rubber river rafts powered by outboard engines rescued 17 people in separate incidents this weekend.

No injuries or fatalities were reported in either incident, Modesto Fire Department communications staff said. River rescuers are reminding people to refrain from using flimsy pool float toys and rafts that are not rated for use in rivers that include Class IV rapids ratings.

Search-and-rescue teams connected with sheriff’s departments in Tuolumne County and Stanislaus County took part in the Sunday incident. Cal Fire Copter 404 based at Columbia Air Attack Base was called out to assist, but was not involved in incident operations, Emily Kilgore with Cal Fire’s Tuolumne-Calaveras Unit said Monday.

In the Sunday incident, a hiker in Goodwin Canyon reported a group of adults and a child yelling for help near Goodwin Dam. They had lost their rafts and inner tubes in Class IV rapids below the dam, Modesto Fire staff said. A Class IV river rapids rating means waters are intense and powerful, and require precise boat handling in turbulent water.

Modesto Fire personnel rescued six adults and one minor in a rescue operation that started before 3 p.m. and lasted about three hours.

On Saturday, there were six adults stranded in the middle of the Stanislaus River channel near Rushing Rapids, which is downstream from Goodwin Dam and close to Knights Ferry in Stanislaus County.

Modesto Fire personnel, again using river rafts powered by outboard engines, located all six adults and four more people who needed help.

“With the increasing temperatures, we want to remind river users to be prepared for fast moving, cold water, to always wear an approved personal flotation device while on the river, and refrain from using floats not rated for use on rivers such as pool floats,” Modesto Fire Department communications staff said Sunday before the second rescue operation in two days was required.

Goodwin Dam is 80 feet high and dates back to 1913. It is jointly owned by two irrigation districts, South San Joaquin ID and Oakdale ID, who together run Tri-Dam. According to federal Bureau of Reclamation data, Stanislaus River releases at Goodwin Dam have been at 1,350 cubic feet per second, all day and every day since Wednesday last week, and they are continuing at 1,350 cfs through at least Tuesday this week.

Earlier this month, releases at Goodwin Dam were at 400 cfs, then 800 cfs, 1,000 cfs and 1,200 cfs before dam operators ramped up to 1,350 cfs at 1 a.m. May 19.


Contact Guy McCarthy at or 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.


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