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Kayaker Killed Running the Potomac's Great Falls

posted October 15, 2013
by Charlie and Sandy Walbridge
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Shannon Christy, a charismatic young paddler, was killed in Great Falls of the Potomac River on July 11th, 2013. After bailing out below Grace Under Pressure, one of the center chutes, she washed over the notorious "Middle Finger" drop into the Subway, a deadly sieve. There is a full write-up of this fatality in the AW Accident Database. The photo shows Steve Fisher and Jason Beakes during the difficult body recovery.

Analysis of a Vertical Pin Fatality

posted October 15, 2013
by Charlie Walbridge
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On March 9, 2013 Dr. Jim McComb died after his kayak pinned vertically in a small ledge on Arizona's East Verde River. His friend Dr. Bill Langhoffer recently forwarded a detailed description of the pin along with several photos which may be useful to any paddler running difficult whitewater. Photo Caption:  This view is from the top of the drop as we found the boat weeks later once the water had receded from 500 to 20 cfs, and had transformed from muddy to clear water. The piton rock can be seen (#2).  This small rock at the base of the fall is what stopped his boat. The left slant in the rock at the base of the fall can be noticed (#4), with the boat still leaning in that direction. Once his boat sunk in the water it hit that slant and rotated the boat to the left.Jim was now pinned in the slot between the 2 rocks (Red/White and Black) on the river left (#5).The approximate water line at 500 cfs was drawn into the photo, water line.

Rescue Rodeo in Western North Carolina

posted August 7, 2013
by Mark Singleton
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Teams compete in river rescue skills for overall prizes. The event will be based out of Dillsboro River Company at the put-in to the Tuckasegee Gorge – Dillsboro, NC.

AW Partners with Dam Safety Researcher

posted June 12, 2013
by Charlie Walbridge
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American Whitewater's Accident Database contains more than 1000 fatal accidents and near misses reported over the last  35 years. We sometimes give qualified water safety researchers access to this material. Our latest research partner is Ed Kern,  a Masters Degree candidate in civil engineering at Brigham Young University in Utah. Click through for more information and a link to his web site.

Detailed Report on 12/9/2012 Clear Creek Accident

posted April 16, 2013
by Charlie Walbridge
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American Whitewater just received an report on the death of Selby Arno on California's Clear Creek last December. It is very complete and well written; you can read the entire report by clicking on the link below:

Outstanding Rescue on the Upper Nantahala: Sept 30, 2012

posted March 28, 2013
by Charlie Walbridge
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A quick-thinking NOC bus driver saved a life during a scheduled September water release on North Carolina’s fast-moving Upper Nantahala River. A kayaker who pulled over above a downed tree didn’t realize that the current there was still powerful enough to cause trouble. Her boat was pushed into and under the log where both disappeared. Fortunately Rob Kelly, a whitewater guide, was driving  shuttle bus and witnessed the entrapment. He pulled his bus over and started wading across the river. The rescue was caught by photographer Rick Thompson. To read Mr. Kelly's account, click the link below:

Little River Foot Entrapment: March 11, 2013

posted March 28, 2013
by Charlie Walbridge
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The Little River near Townsend, Tennessee is one of the nicest class III-IV roadside runs in Smokey Mountain National Park. On March 11th an open canoeist flipped in the first drop of "the Meanies" just above The Sinks and washed downstream over a 6' ledge. He was swimming on his back, feet first, lined up with the current when he washed into the backwash and did not reappear. The water "planted" him vertically in rocks below the drop, catching his foot. Many paddlers who were on the river that day participated in the rescue, eventially using a complex live bait system to pull the man free. Click through for a detailed account of what happened.

Yakama Nation Fisheries Boater Survey (WA)

posted February 8, 2013
by Thomas O'Keefe
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American Whitewater is reaching out to our membership to encourage participation in a study of boating conditions and recreation safety conducted by consultants working with the Yakama Nation Fisheries program. The study reaches include Nason Creek, Twisp River, and Chewuch River. The overall purpose of the study is to identify known and anticipated river users and evaluate riverine hazards as habitat restoration projects are planned and implemented.

Charity Navigator Awards AW Third Consecutive 4-Star Rating

posted December 3, 2012
by Mark Singleton
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Charity Navigator has recognized our diligence in adhering to strict financial accountability for the third straight year (something that only happens to the top 9% of non profits they rate). It is an honor to receive this top rating three years in a row for our philanthropic efforts in river conservation. At American Whitewater, we strive to maintain the high standards set forth by Charity Navigator and work hard to earn the trust and respect of our members.

White Salmon River Homecoming Celebration (WA)

posted September 7, 2012
by Thomas O'Keefe
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Removal of Condit Dam is nearing completion and we are getting ready to celebrate the moment on Saturday September 29th. Contractors still have equipment in and along the river that will be removed over the next couple weeks and a log jam resulting from the dam breach still needs to be addressed. It's important for paddlers to wait until this work is done and everyone considering this reach needs to understand the hazards associated with the class IV/V entrance drop into the Narrows.

Handling the Crowds on the Upper Yough

posted May 24, 2012
by Charlie Walbridge
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The Upper Youghiogheny River has some of the East's finest expert-level summer whitewater. Memorial Day Weekend is the first of many busy release weekends which create crowded conditions on and off the river. For the past four decades the paddling community has done a good job managing themselves. Here are some things you can do to help your trip run more smoothly.

Please Sign In When Running the Upper Blackwater

posted April 4, 2012
by Charlie Walbridge
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Blackwater Falls State Park has asked AW to remind paddlers running West Virginia’s Upper Blackwater River to sign in at Blackwater Lodge before putting on. Park Manager Rob Gilligan says that although many kayakers are complying, a significant number are not. American Whitewater believes that registration is our best interest. In addition to helping emergency responders, registration demonstrates to political leaders  that we are a responsible, law abiding group. It’s also helpful for both AW and the park to know just how many people are paddling the Upper Blackwater. By checking-in, you’re letting everyone know that this is a valuable part of whitewater sport. Take the time to do this, and remind your friends

Remembering O. K. Goodwin, Long-Time AW Safety Chair

posted March 16, 2012
by Charlie Walbridge
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American Whitewater recently learned that O.K. Goodwin, founder of The Coastal Canoeists (1965) and long-time AW safety chair (1970 to 1987), died on December 3, 2011. He was 90 years old. A lifelong resident of Newport News, VA, he was a designer of merchant ships (and the occasional canoe) for almost four decades. He was an instructor, Scout leader, and a whitewater competitor in C-1 and in C-2 with his wife, Glenna. They were married for 64 years and their daughter Cyndi was a top-ranked K-1W racer. He was well known on the race circuit, always there with his coiled rope at the toughest part of the course. As Safety Chair he discussed the inevitable conflicts between river-savvy paddlers and the wider, less knowledgeable society in which we all live. He pioneered outreach to state and local government and encouraged others to do the same. His work laid important foundation for today's American Whitewater. (Drawing by Les Fry in CoastalCaNews)

Sign-Ins Required for the Upper Blackwater

posted January 19, 2012
by Charlie Walbridge
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After a second fatality on West Virginia's Upper Blackwater River in just over two years Blackwater Falls State Park is now making it mandatory to sign in at the state park lodge and will ticket any kayakers who do not sign in. First run in 1971 by Joe Monahan, Phil Allender, and Todd Martin, this stretch has become a classic "test piece" for today's high-end creek boaters. Tucker County, which responds to accidents in the drainage, is considering legislation to make anyone requiring help from Search and Rescue responsible for the costs. The State Park has also threatened "drastic actions" if faced with more fatal incidents in the future, possibly eliminating access to the Upper Blackwater from State Park land. AW strongly urges paddlers to cooperate with the park and to exercise extra caution when running the river.

HIGH WATER ADVISORY FOR THE GAULEY RIVER

posted September 13, 2011
by Charlie Walbridge
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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans a higher than normal whitewater release for the World Kayak Canyon Doors Freestyle Festival on Tuesday, September 20, 2011. Summersville Dam will release to 4700 cfs from 5:30 - 11:00 am; afterwards, the release will gradually drop to 700 cfs over the next 8 hours. This is significantly more water than the regular weekend Gauley releases of 2800 cfs. This added water makes all sections, especially the Upper Gauley, more challenging. Paddlers utilizing this special release should exercise caution to avoid unpleasant surprises. Signs advising of this flow increase will be posted by the National Park Service at all major access areas.



 

Ohio Watercraft Chief Pam Dillon Retires

posted June 14, 2011
by Charlie Walbridge
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Pamela S. Dillon recently retired as chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Watercraft, which administers Ohio’s boating safety, access, and law enforcement programs.  Ms. Dillon, a skilled whitewater paddler, played a key role in bringing the swiftwater rescue skills used by whitewater paddlers to firefighters, rescue squads, and other safety professionals nationwide. As executive director of American Canoe Association she played a vital role explaining recreational paddlesports to her former colleagues in state and federal boating agencies. Her dilligent advocacy prevented many unnecessary restrictions on our sport. She was also credited, as division chief, with saving the Ohio Scenic Rivers program in 2009. Join us in wishing her many happy days paddling at her second home along the Lower Yough!

 

Higgins & Langley Award Recognizes Four Kayakers

posted May 17, 2011
by Charlie Walbridge
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The Higgins and Langley Awards honor outstanding achievements in swiftwater and flood rescue. This is the first time that whitewater kayakers have been honored.  On October 3, 2010 a kayaker seriously injured his cervical spine in a whitewater kayaking incident on the Ocoee River in Tennessee.  Paralyzed and unable to move, he was rescued by four kayakers he had met only 45 minutes before—Michael Howard, Kevin Sipe, Neal Carmack, and Bryant Haley. These  kayakers chased him though Class II-III rapids, catching him and rolling him upright just before entering a bigger drop. One of the rescuers, trained as a military medic, immobilized his neck while another paddled ahead to get help. The rest got him safely into an eddy and worked with an outfitter to carry him to a waiting ambulance on the road.

Pillow Rock Pinning: October 10, 2010

posted April 6, 2011
by Charlie Walbridge
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Pillow Rock Rapid on West Virginia’s Upper Gauley has been thought of as big, powerful, but relatively hazard free. That changed on October 10th when veteran paddler Mark Hanna died after pinning on a previously unknown undercut rock.His friends agree on these facts: At Pillow rock, running fourth in a group of 9, he flipped on the big pressure wave that gives the rapid its name. He attempted 3-5 rolls as he washed downstream. As he did this, he was pushed to the right just downstream of Volkswagen Rock (A,B). He came out of his kayak just above a giant rock that guards the bottom of the right-side eddy. As he bailed out, his face appeared for an instant before he was pushed under the right corner of the rock (C).

North Fork Feather Drowning: August 29, 2010

posted April 6, 2011
by Charlie Walbridge
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          On August 29th  Susan Marie Kaiser paddled the “Lowbin” section of the North Fork of the Feather in an inflatable kayak. According to postings in Boof.com, Ms. Kaiser, a former river guide, flipped her IK on a large breaking wave near the bottom in a long Class IV rapid below the first (Bucks Creek) power house. The current pushed her to the left where she pinned in a slot between a large boulder and a smaller submerged boulder to its left. One of the paddlers in her group managed to swim into the small pocket eddy behind the boulder and tried to pull her out, but she was wedged in too tightly.  The photo by Jeff Sailus shows a kayak pinned in the same spot.

Upper Blackwater Entrapment: October 2, 2010

posted April 6, 2011
by Charlie Walbridge
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Photo shows Flatliner Falls, the site of Carl Schneider's drowning on the Upper Blackwater River in West Virginia on October 2, 2010.This classic Class V run was running at 400 cfs, a high but commonly run level, when a group of 7 expert paddlers put in below the falls. Mr. Schneider missed a boof and washed over a 6’ ledge sideways. His bow hit rocks at the bottom, and the left side of his boat washed against an underwater rock shelf protruding from the ledge (foreground). It was an angled vertical pinning, with the current forcing him against his back deck. There was no air pocket.

Frog Rock Drowning, Arkansas River: July 11, 2010

posted April 6, 2011
by Charlie Walbridge
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Frog Rock Rapid on Colorado’s Arkansas River is a deceptively dangerous place. At high flows it’s a straightforward Class III; at lower levels much of the water runs under a massive rock (Center). It has been the scene of at least six deaths in the last two decades; the lower the water, the worse it gets. Signs warn boaters to stay left or portage, but for those used to higher levels, its hard to shift gears. On July 11th  a group of river guides high-sided a raft here. One of them, Kimberly Appelson, 28, fell out of the raft and washed under the rock. Rescue was impossible, and it took several months to recover her body .

Avoiding Collisions on the Gauley River

posted September 21, 2010
by Charlie Walbridge
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River outfitters and American Whitewater joined together decades ago to protect the Gauley River from hydro development. The success of these business enterprises were one of the key reasons that the river was protected as a National Recreation Area. But with success has come new challenges. Professional guides find the number of kayakers on the Upper Gauley overwhelming at times and kayakers also find the number of rafts intimidating.  Regardless of any “right of way”, it’s everyone’s job to avoid crashes! Here’s what you can do to avoid collisions with commercial rafts. 

Open Innovation in the Paddlesport Community - Survey

posted March 16, 2010
by Mark Singleton
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A research program initiated by the MIT Sloan School of Management (USA) and Copenhagen Business School (Denmark) seeks to study open innovation in sport communities.

Saluda Dam Relicensing Settled!

posted July 28, 2009
by Kevin Colburn
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On Friday, July 24, 2009, American Whitewater signed a settlement agreement with South Carolina Electric & Gas Company and a suite of other organizations and agencies that resolves issues regarding the management of Lake Murray Dam for the next 50 years.  Lake Murray Dam regulates flows in the popular Saluda River, as it flows through Columbia, South Carolina.  AW was represented by Charlene Coleman throughout this process and the exciting agreement signed last week is a testament to her hard work and creativity. 

Dealing with Sudden Death

posted July 14, 2009
by Charlie Walbridge

Sudden death is a charged emotional event, often compounded by trauma among those who witness a drowning accident or try to rescue or resuscitate someone. Few people realize how little time you have for a successful drowning rescue. The sad facts are that unless a drowning person is pulled out within 6-10 minutes of going under, their chances are almost zero. Anger or displaced anger towards rescue and recovery efforts are not unusual. Excellent Resources for managing sudden death grief and trauma can be found on the Higgins & Langley website. These pamphlets, created by the Royal Hospital Foundation in Belfast, Northern Island, can be downloaded as needed

 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Boating Beta

posted July 1, 2009
by Mark Singleton
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Keep this number for assistance in the Great Smoky Mountains Nation Park - (865) 436-1230. This number connects to the Park Dispatch Office and should be used in non-emergency situations. For boaters who regularly paddle in the Park it is advisable to program the number in your cell phone.

Slim Ray's River Rescue Back In Print

posted April 27, 2009
by Charles Walbridge
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River Rescue is back in print! The 4th edition of Slim Ray’s authoritative reference for  whitewater paddlers is better than ever. There’s lots of new material in its 292 fact-filled pages. Here's where you can find the tools and techniques you'll need to deal with any emergency. The book covers self-rescue and rescue of others by hand, boat, rope, and  more It includes sections on leadership, teamwork, patient care, evacuation, and more. You'll see new photos and first-hand accounts of rescues and an expanded section on big-water rescue. Price is $24.95 + $4 s/h. The easiest way is to go to the web site, where you can use your credit card.  http://www.cfspress.com/order.htm

 

Slim Ray, CFS Press; 8 Pelham Road, Asheville, NC 28803; 828-505-2917; info@cfspress.com

 

Single Bladed Paddlers, We Want to Hear From You!

posted July 10, 2008
by Ambrose Tuscano
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American Whitewater is looking for more story and photo contributions from canoeists, rafters, and C1ers. If you've always wished our magazine highlighted more folks who paddle like you do--with a single blade--this is your chance to make it happen.

Sudden Death, Grief, and Trauma Info on the Web

posted June 29, 2008
by Charles Walbridge

The Higgins and Langley Memorial Awards in Swiftwater Rescue honor outstanding achievement in the technical rescue discipline of swiftwater and flood rescue. They are not heroism awards, but rather recognize preparedness, teamwork, and a job well done, sometimes under extreme conditions, where training is vital to the success of rescue missions, as well as the safety of rescue personnel.

The awards were established in 1993 by members of the Swiftwater Rescue Committee of the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) in honor of Earl Higgins, a writer and filmmaker who lost his life in 1980 while rescuing a child who was swept down the flood-swollen Los Angeles River, and Jeffrey Langley, a Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighter-paramedic and swiftwater rescue pioneer, who lost his life in a helicopter incident in 1993.

There is a special page on the Higgins & Langley Memorial and Education Fund website that features a series of outstanding information brochures about sudden death grief and trauma. The brochures were produced by the Royal Hospitals Trauma Advisory Council in Ireland:

Sudden Death - Grief and Trauma Brochures
http://higginsandla ngley.org/ death_grief_ information. shtml

The brochures will no longer be available on the Royal Hospitals website, as the Trauma Advisory Council is ending in August. We received permission to feature the brochures on our website - they are among the best resources I've found online that focus on sudden death grief and trauma.

The information is broken into three groups - for families who have suffered a sudden death loss, for professionals dealing with these families, and for schools that have children in attendance who are grieving. The brochures are also divided by age group, which is very helpful.

Eventually, this information will be featured on the new Drowning Support Network web site.

posted June 28, 2008
by Charles Walbridge

There is a special page on the Higgins & Langley Memorial and Education Fund website that features a series of outstanding information brochures about sudden death grief and trauma. The brochures were produced by the Royal Hospitals Trauma Advisory Council in Ireland. they are among the best resources online that focus on sudden death grief and trauma.

 

Sudden Death - Grief and Trauma Brochures

http://higginsandla ngley.org/ death_grief_ information. shtml

 

Surprise: More Chattooga Delays

posted March 7, 2008
by Kevin Colburn
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The Sumter National Forest told AW today to expect even more delays in the release of their Environmental Assessment (EA) regarding recreational use in the Wild and Scenic Upper Chattooga River corridor.  Now a full year late, and fraught with problems, it is unclear when the EA will be released.

Guided Rafting Accident Statistics

posted September 4, 2007
by David Brown
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A CNN story on whitewater rafting deaths published in September 2006 omits the fact that most of the fatalities cited by the article did not occur on commercial raft trips, said to David Brown, Executive Director of America Outdoors (AO).  America Outdoors is a national association of outfitters, which includes many whitewater rafting companies.  The story cites 50 whitewater deaths and infers that they were on commercial rafting trips due to lax state regulation.  Brown says his data shows 10 fatalities on guided, commercial raft trips in 2006.  None of the deaths on commercial trips were the result of a customer not wearing a life jacket.  Of the eight rafting deaths cited in Oregon by CNN, none were on a commercially guided trip.

Jim Segerstrom, Swiftwater Rescue Pioneer, Dies

posted February 11, 2007
by Charles Walbridge
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Jim Segerstrom, founder of Rescue III International and a renowned swiftwater rescue expert, died February 5, 2007 in San Francisco, CA after a massive stroke. He was 60 years old. A former river guide and climbing instructor, Jim was the originator of the Swiftwater Rescue Technician program that has been a huge influence on paddlers and rescue professionals alike. He was the author of several original SRT course texts as well as books on high angle rescue and helicopter rescue. He was a frequent contributor to rescue magazines and a speaker at many national rescue and EMS conferences. A 25-year member of the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Team, he continued to respond to emergencies and train instructors until his death. The strong current of Jim's life work will continue to be felt on rivers throughout the world.