KAYAKER PINNED IN THE GREATFALLS “FISHLADER”
The “Fishladder” is a Class V+ side chute of Great Falls on the Potomac River near Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, August 6, 1993, two kayakers attempted to run it at 3’6” on the Little Falls gauge. They were in full compliance with Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ regulations regarding running the falls. At the middle drop, near where the tourist bridge crosses the water, Dave Bruton pinned bow-first in a submerged tree. This obstacle was completely underwater in the middle of a Class V rapid and was not visible when the pair scouted the drop. His partner, assisted by a rock climber who happened to be in the area, used a rope to help Bruton exit his kayak and get to shore.
At this point a National Park Service ranger arrived. He ordered the pair from the area and attempted to recover the boat. By pulling from the downstream side, the ranger only wrapped the boat harder, damaging it beyond repair. By then it was pitch dark, so everyone called it a day and left. The boaters returned the next day and freed the boat by using a Z-drag and pulling upstream.
SOURCE: Dave Bruton
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bruton found it frustrating that a Park Service ranger not only disregarded his suggestions and offers of help, but also threatened him with arrest if he intervened.