This is a serious rapid entailing several four- to five-foot drops in very turbulent water. The rapid is complicated further by several powerful channels, which tend to push the boater in the wrong direction. On this particular day there was an additional development, a tree limb was wedged at the bottom of one of these channels. There is no easy way to set up a rescue due to the steep walled nature of the gorge. One individual, to his credit, did climb up the rock face and attempt to set up a throw rope in case it was needed. He had to sit in a tree in order to do this! Three boaters made the approach to the rapid and eddied out on river right just above the drop. The first individual in an open boat successfully traversed the rapid. The second attempt, by a kayaker, was not quite so successful. At each drop the kayak’s stern was submerged by the current. Although the boater did a terrific job battling his way through the rapid, the kayak was turned by the forceful cross-current at the last junction and rammed down the right channel and into the strainer.
I was filming this entire scenario with my video camera. I distinctly remember his exact though running through my mind. “Oh my God, I’m filming his death!” He was underwater for at least seven seconds and probably considerably more. We have seven seconds on film. Fortunately he was able to extricate himself from the boat and climb out onto a rock, none the worse for wear. The third boater took out from the eddy above the rapid. By the way, kudos to the individual on the throw rope. He made a beautiful toss, although the paddler was underwater at the time and didn’t know the rope was there. The rope washed free. The paddler made it to shore by his own efforts, to the cheers of those watching from the bridge, and to the relief of his paddling partners.
SOURCE: Ted Groom in Crosscurrents.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the television series Hill Street Blues, Sergeant Phil Esterhaus always finished the watch assignments with the phrase “Let’s be careful out there.” The same goes for boaters. It doesn’t always happen to the other guy. Sometimes the other guy is your friend, your paddling partner or even yourself. Don’t become a statistic; think safety. It’s sort of like defensive driving. Imagine the worst possible scenario when running a rapid. What would you do if that happened? Have a plan and implement it.