Accident Database

Report ID# 2955

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Cold Water
  • Other
  • High Water

Accident Description

Kayaker dies in Madison rapids

Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

published on Monday, September 15, 2008

By JESSICA MAYRER Chronicle Staff Writer

About the same time that organizers canceled a Saturday afternoon kayak race on the Madison River near Quake Lake because of high and fast water, a boater capsized, was swept downstream and drowned. “Shortly thereafter he was spotted floating face down in the water,” Madison County Sheriff Dave Schenk said Monday. Robert James Kindle, 36, an experienced kayaker, flipped at the top of a Class 5 rapid known as the S-Turn during trial runs meant to determine the feasibility of holding a downriver race later in the afternoon, said David Schroeder, Kindle’s friend and a member of the Headwater Paddling Association. Kindle tried to swim away from the kayak, but was swept downstream, Schroeder said.

He was in the water for about 15 minutes before other kayakers found him about two miles downriver, Schenk said. They pulled Kindle to shore and began performing CPR. A LifeFlight helicopter flew Kindle to a hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho, where he was pronounced dead. “This area lost one of the great members of its outdoors community,” Schroeder said. “We are all greatly saddened by this tragic loss.”

The Madison River is running about three times higher and faster than normal fall conditions because of a malfunctioning intake tower upstream at the Hebgen Dam. That high, fast water was what prompted the paddling club to call off its “QuakenBake” race, kayaker Ben Kinsella said Monday. “I had never seen it this high, ever,” Kinsella said. “After more experienced boaters ran it, we all kind of communed together and decided it was too high to hold a safe race.” Association members said

Kindle was familiar with that particular stretch of river and had been paddling it for several years. However this time he missed the “entry point” kayakers typically use when running the S-Turn rapid and flipped, Schroeder said. He made several unsuccessful attempts to roll his kayak in the strong current and eventually swam from his boat Kindle was apparently “unable to see the throw-bags landing near him in the water as he was swept downstream,” Schroeder said. At the tail end of the rapid, an exhausted Kindle hit and got stuck on an old tree, then disappeared from sight, Schroeder said. Kindle’s paddling partner and volunteers eventually freed Kindle’s body from the tree and pulled him to shore.

“It was a freak accident and that was the worst part about it,” Kinsella said. “The river is pretty mischievous.”

Jessica Mayrer can be reached at or 582-2635.

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