Traffic was backed up trying to get into Woodward Reservoir off 26-Mile Road at multiple times during the long July 4 holiday weekend, as locals and visitors alike looked to get some relief from the heat.
Mother Nature did provide somewhat of a cooldown also, keeping the region from hitting triple digits for the holiday. At Woodward on Saturday morning, a free life jacket giveaway hosted by local radio station KAT Country 103 had plenty of takers, and many of the ‘String of Pearls’ parks along the Stanislaus River also have life jacket loaner programs now. The goal of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers loaner program is to make sure everyone getting into the water has a proper, working floatation device. They ask only that you return them after use. Many drownings have already occurred this summer in the Stanislaus County area, including one over the weekend at Modesto Reservoir.
Plenty of people were out and about at the Oakdale Recreation Area off Liberini Avenue early Saturday morning, heading to the river for a day of floating, fishing and fun.
Modesto resident Richard Gomez had staked out his spot on a fallen tree, getting the right angle to cast his fishing line out, looking to hook a bass.
“They’re not biting too much today,” he admitted, but said he enjoyed the chance to take advantage of the holiday to get in some fishing.
Oakdale teen Matthew Fann, 13, was among a group getting ready for some float time on the river.
“I love the water,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Friend Ima Lasater of Ceres, 17, wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, noting the water was a little cold when you first ventured in.
“Once I get used to it, it’ll be fine,” she added.
Others heading out of the rec area indicated the crowd was a little too big and they were going to try their luck at Knights Ferry, floating down the river there instead.
Along with those on rafts and inner tubes along the river and at the reservoir, the highways were jammed with motorists and Monday night brought a slew of illegal fireworks exploding overhead. One fire was reported in a field near the cannery off Yosemite Avenue but was quickly extinguished, and there were no other reports of major damage or injury due to the use of the illegal fireworks, though they did prove problematic for many family pets around the region.
Many neighborhoods also seized the opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie of celebrating the holiday with their own ‘Safe and Sane’ fireworks displays.