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Accident Description


The Upper Animas River, one of Southern Colorado 's most famous runs, saw its second fatality in two years on Sunday, May 12, 1996. This occurred not in the Class VI+ lower section of Rockwood Gorge, but in the upper section that is often run to avoid walking the railroad tracks to the take-out. It is a sheer-walled box canyon with stout Class IV+ rapids in it. The 3900 cfs water level was pretty high, but not absurd.

Mike Miller was paddling with another kayaker when he became caught in a deceptively nasty pourover. He bailed out, recirculated, then floated free in a semi-conscious state. His partner brought him to shore twice, but Mike could not pull himself to safety. Finally he washed into the "logjam eddy" where the river makes a sharp bend. There he was pulled beneath an undercut wall. The body was spotted briefly by rescuers several days later, but was probably lost in the Lower Box.

SOURCE: AW President Ric Alesh; CWWA Safety Chair Roger Lynn; Nancy Wiley

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) A Class IV rapid in a sheer walled gorge at high water, just above an unrunnable section is no place to swim! Paddlers attempting to duplicate the run must understand that they can’t afford to make a similar mistake.