Frank Prenot via FB
Yaak just below flood stage. Scouted day before and decided to warm up on another river and get early start. Group from Teton valley Idaho and Asheville NC. All 4 boat high end class 5 all the time. Walked opening drop then started down. Got out and scouted large drop above a gorge. Decided high but ok and would run. All 4 dropped in close together. Was way bigger than thought. First boater swam and group chased through scary stuff. Had him on boat sterns multiple times, but kept loosing contact when kayaks surfed or crashed into walls on side. Eventually group pulled apart and lost him. Was unresponsive when last seen. Activated an emergency beacon. One person hiked out and ran dirt roads until finding people with phone. Boat was recovered near confluence SAR found individual 4 miles down on the Kootenai (spelling?). 50 year old from Victor Idaho. Mainstay in boating here for decades.
Idaho kayaker dies in accident in northwestern Montana river
May 9, 2022
LIBBY, Mont. (AP) — An experienced kayaker from Victor, Idaho, died in a kayaking accident in the Yaak River in northwestern Montana over the weekend, Lincoln County officials said Monday. Dispatchers received an SOS message from a GPS device in the river at about 12:20 p.m. Sunday, Sheriff Darren Short said in a statement.
As deputies were traveling to the area west of Troy, one of the men on the kayaking trip was able to call 911. He reported that a group of four men was navigating through a rough stretch of river about 3 to 4 miles (5 to 8 kilometers) north of the Kootenai River when Steven Koning fell out of his kayak. Members of the group were unable to rescue him, Short said.
His body was recovered at 3:30 p.m. in the Kootenai River near the Montana-Idaho line, Short said. Koning, 50, was an experienced kayaker who owned a guide business, Coroner Steve Schnackenberg said.
Kayakers Body Found Along Montana/Idaho Border
May 9, 2022 Josh Margolis State News
LINCOLN COUNTY, Mont. (NMB) – The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office reports that the body of a kayaker was recovered on Sunday afternoon near the Montana/Idaho border. Steven Koning, 50, of Victor, Idaho, was kayaking with a group on the Yaak River when he fell off the kayak while going through a rough stretch of river. Other kayakers tried to get him to safety, but he slipped underwater and they lost sight of him.
David Thompson Search and Rescue, Troy Volunteer Ambulance, and Two Bear Air Rescue responded to assist in the search. Members of David Thompson Search and Rescue located Koning’s body at approximately 3:33 pm in the Kootenai River near the Idaho-Montana state line. Notifications were made by the Lincoln County Coroner.
Kayaker Koning, 50, was a trusted companion, leader on the river
Friends saw guide as honest, humble and always there to ‘bail out a buddy.’
By Evan Robinson-Johnson, Jackson Hole News and Guide
May 11, 2022
Steve Koning somehow managed to fly under the radar in much of Jackson Hole, even while running one of the largest boating outfits in Yellowstone National Park. But in the close-knit river community, he was counted on. “For being kind of a one-man show, he had a great presence,” said Jon Wiedie, a close friend and former employee of Koning’s back when he co-owned Snake River Kayak and Canoe with Brooks Holmes.
Koning kept his Yellowstone permits and many of his personal connections when they sold the Snake River operation to Rendezvous River Sports in 2011. Since then, he led Yellowstone Geyser Kayak Tours, giving visitors a glimpse of geysers and bison from their boat on day trips past West Thumb or on multi-day backcountry adventures on Lewis, Shoshone and Yellowstone lakes.
Many of his oldest friends — folks like Wiedie who proved themselves on Snake River canyon waves — were still floating with him decades later. They, along with Koning’s wife Danielle, are currently grappling with the news of his death in a tragic kayaking accident over the weekend. Official reports indicate Koning, 50, was paddling a raging stretch of the Yaak River in northwestern Montana with three other men on Sunday. Koning fell out of his kayak and was unable to be rescued by his travel partners, Lincoln County Sheriff Darren Short said in a statement.
Wiedie was supposed to be on that trip but backed out at the last moment. Now a part of him can’t help wondering if things might have gone differently if he had been there. More likely, Wiedie said, he would have made the same decision as the ever-cautious Koning.
“The river is always gonna win,” he said. “To some degree, it forces you to be in a more humble state.” Another close friend, Jason Kauffman, described Koning as “a very level-headed, calculated boater.” “He was always just out there to have fun. Nothing to prove,” said Kauffman, 48, who paddled with Koning on and off for the past 20 years, both in Jackson and in some of the rivers near his childhood home in Maryland. One time, they were navigating a difficult stretch of river in Appalachia when Kauffman’s boat flipped, and whitewater pinned it underneath another raft. By the time he swam out and got his head back above water, Koning was there to offer a helping hand. “He’s leaving a big hole in his valley and in our lives.” —Rob Koning, brother of Steve Koning.
In a world of river sports that sometimes feels full of self-determined “cowboys,” Kauffman said Koning was always someone he could trust. Even in familiar sections of canyon they’d paddled 40 times and could probably navigate in their sleep, Kauffman said they would get out and walk the route first, just to make sure errant drifts or strainers hadn’t worked their way in.
He still has warm memories of running down to the Snake River Canyon after work trying out new boats and new tricks with Koning at the turn of the millennium. “In those days we were all pretty jazzed up,” Kauffman said. You would see the same faces in the parking lot, and hop on the river for “personal joy” rather than status. Even though some favorite features have washed away (“Taco Hole” was taken out in a landslide), Kauffman said the friendships forged on the river have endured. He’s still working through the reality that Koning is gone. “When you hear this stuff it guts ya. I mean it really guts ya to the core,” he said.
Where Kauffman lost a friend, Rob Koning lost a brother. Just three years apart, the Koning boys have shared river adventures across the country — from Hells Canyon to the Rogue River. Still, the younger Koning said it was “not near enough, that’s for sure.” “He was kind and he was gentle. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard him raise his voice to anybody,” Rob Koning said. “He loved to play guitar. He loved being an uncle to my two kids.”
Koning was inspired by his brother’s ability to turn his passion into a career, even one that came with inherent risks. “He’s always been my hero,” Koning said. Last September, he visited Victor from his home in Oregon to celebrate his brother’s 50th birthday. They went mountain biking, worked on a new barn and continued processing the loss of their dad who died a year prior. “He’s leaving a big hole in his valley and in our lives,” Koning said.
Craig Pavlick, who met Steve Koning on the river and became an instructor for him in 2000, said he was already planning a kayak trip in his honor. “Not only was he an amazing boss, but just one of the kindest souls in the world, too,” Pavlick said. “He’s irreplaceable.”
Along with his wife, Pavlick had the pleasure of sharing adventures in the high country and the canyon with the Koning family. “I’ve never seen a love like Steve and Danielle have,” he said.
Wiedie was fortunate enough to call the Konings neighbors. One time, when he got a new refrigerator stuck in a stairwell moving it into his cabin, Steve was there in a pinch to save the day.
“He was just one of those guys who would always show up on many levels,” Wiedie said. “He was always there. And you were never disappointed to see him.”