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Accident Description

On May 13, 1978 Dr. Walt Blackadar died during a routine run of the South Fork of the Payette River north of Boise, ID. Blackadar, 55, was the pre-eminent big water and expedition paddler of his era. The South Payette Canyon is a well-known Class IV run that the entire party knew quite well. They had been warned about the presence of a 12" diameter log in the rapid below the falls.

The group portaged Big Falls and entered the long, cliff-lined rapid where the accident occurred. Blackadar, running third, seemed to drift inexorably into the tree. He and his boat pinned fast. The nose of his boat went under the log, then the back end was pushed over the top and wrapped. Blackadar's PFD washed out soon after that. The group converged on the site to help, but there was nothing they could do. His body washed feee during the night and was recovered the next day.


Best of the River Safety Task Force by Charlie Walbridge

Never Turn Back - The Life &Times of Whitewater Pioneer Walt Blackdar by Ron Waters



1) There is no question that a healthy Walt Blackadar could have run this rapid without any trouble. But Walt was still recovering from shoulder surgery and his strength and mobility were much lower than usual. He was missing rolls and lacked the strength to make hard, fast moves across current. His failure to allow for this was one of this accident's contributing factors.

2) Even though the group knewe that the tree was there they dis not try to scout the rapid. Part of this can be explained by the extremely rugged terrain.  Although they had been warned about the downed tree, this rapid is anormally  straightforward Class III+ flush. A good look at the drop might have given Blackadar the edge he needed to stay out of trouble.