A Colorado Parks and Wildlife river ranger rescued a mother and daughter whose cataraft was trapped in a hole June 18 in the area of Pinnacle Rock on the Arkansas River.
Jeff Hammond, 24, a first-year river ranger, was patrolling the river near the Class IV-V Three Rocks Rapid when he noticed the cataraft trapped in the recirculating river feature known as a hole, according to a press release issued by CPW.
The mother “was fighting to get out and broke an oar. They kept getting part of the way out only to get sucked back in,” Hammond said.The action in the rapids became so violent that the mother was bucked out of the cataraft and was swept downstream, leaving the daughter stranded. Meanwhile a commercial raft that came through the rapids moments earlier had flipped just downstream, creating a chaotic scene on the river, CPW reported.
“Seeing what was going on, I jumped in my kayak and chased down the cataraft,” said Hammond. “I reached the cat, and the daughter on board said, ‘I’m really glad you’re here.’ I then climbed aboard the cataraft, pulling my kayak on board with me.”
Hammond found a spare oar on the cataraft and replaced the broken oar. Then he guided the cataraft downstream where the commercial raft’s guides were gathering passengers as well as the mother who had been thrown out of the cataraft. “We all continued downstream through the next rapid, Five Points, and caught up with each other at the next eddy,” Hammond said. “The mother got back aboard and they carried on with their day.”
A veteran ranger who witnessed the rescue said, “I’d never seen anything like it.”
Hammond said the mother and daughter later left him a thank-you note on the windshield of his CPW truck. “I’m keeping the note,” Hammond said with a smile.
Hammond is a Connecticut native who earned a biology degree in college. He fell in love with whitewater boating at age 12 and decided to seek a job with CPW after rafting the Grand Canyon in January. “I was looking for a research position when I saw the river ranger posting,” Hammond said. “It sounded like more fun.” CPW employs six river rangers, five seasonal and one full-time, to assist people who are boating the Arkansas River’s rapids.