Accident Database

Report ID# 49143

  • Impact/Trauma
  • Physical Trauma
  • Other

Accident Description


Durango Herald 

Kayaker injured at dangerous rapid on Vallecito Creek 

By Jonathan Romeo County & environment reporter

A kayaker required rescue Tuesday afternoon after getting injured at a dangerous Class 4 rapid on Vallecito Creek. Bruce Evans, fire chief for Upper Pine River Fire Protection District, said a call came in around 3 p.m. that a kayaker was injured and stranded in the remote, hard-to-access gorge. Initial information indicated two local kayakers, both male, were out on a section of Vallecito Creek that features up to Class 5 rapids, considered the most difficult class of runnable rapids. 

According to American Whitewater, Vallecito Creek is “remote and hazardous. The gorge is committing and escape is not easy.” On Tuesday, the creek was flowing at 1.9 feet, considered an optimal flow for the stretch.

Evans said both men were skilled and experienced kayakers. However, one of the kayakers injured his shoulder at a rapid known as Trash Can.

Evans did not have all the details immediately available, but he said it appears the kayaker ran into a strainer, an extremely dangerous and sometimes deadly obstacle in a river where debris, often tree limbs and branches, can trap boaters. 

“It takes a unique maneuver to get around it,” Evans said. “It’s a notorious place to hang a kayak.” The injured kayaker was able to get on shore while his partner floated down the creek to get to an area with cellphone service to alert authorities.

Evans said the first rescue crews were on scene at the trailhead within four minutes and started to hike in. After making contact with the injured kayaker, rescue crews set up a rigging system to raise the man up 100 vertical feet to the top of the canyon.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Evans said the injured kayaker had been brought up to the top of the canyon and was getting ready to hike out with emergency personnel. It was a 5-mile walk to the trailhead, he said.

“(The injury) was not serious, but it prevented him from getting out of the canyon,” Evans said. In all, almost 20 rescue personnel responded. Evans said drone footage was taken of the rescue so emergency personnel can review their actions. 


Video: Drone footage shows rescue of kayaker from Vallecito Creek

Upper Pine River Fire Protection District lifted man from 100-foot canyon

By Herald Staff Report

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Upper Pine River Fire Protection District posted drone footage showing the rescue mission of an injured kayaker Tuesday on Vallecito Creek. Crews were able to extricate that man, which required lifting him 100 vertical feet to the top of the canyon. The injured kayaker was able to walk out of the area on his own.

It appeared the man became injured at a Class 4 rapid known as Trash Can. The Vallecito Creek stretch is considered a remote and expert run, with up to Class 5 rapids.

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