Accident Database

Report ID# 504

  • Swim into Strainer
  • Does not Apply
  • Other

Accident Description

The Narrows of the Ogden River near Salt Lake City, UT is a small, steep stretch of continuous Class V whitewater. It is about a mile long section where the river is constrained by the road as it runs through the canyon. It is rated Class V by Gary Nichols in his Utah whitewater guide because it is powerful, continuous, and pushy. Other paddlers call it a IV+, but note the presence of much sharp debris in the riverbed from road construction. Although the flow was only 620 cfs on April 18, 1999, the continuously difficult rapids made rescue very hard.

This is an account of what happened to Mark Anderson, 29, written by Joyce Gronsten, who was on the river when the accident occurred:

I was involved in an attempted rescue of Mark Anderson on April 18, 1998. Mark Anderson, a 29 year-old kayaker from Salt Lake City, was kayaking the Ogden River in Ogden Canyon when his death occurred. I was kayaking with a friend. We put on a little after

3:00 p.m.

about a mile above the Narrows.

I first saw Mark’s group soon after we put on. They caught up and passed us half way through the Narrows. We had just entered a big eddy on river left below a big river wide hole when one of them joined us. He chatted with us while attentively looking up stream for his friends. I saw the next paddler get a huge rear ender which tossed him free of the hole. He promptly rolled up and attempted to hit the eddy but missed and went into the next rapid. Then I saw Mark Anderson, I did not see his line in or out of the hole but noticed him upside down below it. He made three attempts at rolls and then got up just in time to float sideways into the next rapid. Matt was off quickly following behind his friends. We sat in the eddy for about a minute before proceeding to give the other group some space.

Observers from a bridge further down the river, later reported seeing Mark out of his boat. They said he was floating down the river with a dazed look on his face and not attempting to swim for shore. They also said that one of his buddies was kayaking close by, giving verbal support and encouragement as they floated under the bridge and down stream. 

The next time I saw Mark’s group was at the mouth of the canyon, as we floated up to a logjam that is part of a short rapid. I saw one of his friends standing on shore with his throw rope, looking towards the rapid, and the other was up on the top of the river bank by the road talking on a cell phone. When the fellow on shore saw us he came running and it was apparent that something was very wrong. He said that his friend was stuck on a log. I asked if I could get to him from my boat, and he said maybe if I ran the left side between the wall and the logs. I decided to scout first. I was able to catch the eddy below the log, where I exited my boat and climbed on to the rock, where I could reach Mark. He was on the log facing downstream with the log across his chest and abdominal section. The log was about 12 inches thick. It was wedged high on the rock wall and low on the rock that I was on. I was unable to lift his head out of the water due to the depth of the water and strength of the current. A throw rope was then tossed to me which I clipped to the right shoulder of Mark’s life jacket. After fine-tuning the angle of the pull it took at least four or more men to pull him upstream and across the river. CPR was started immediately by the emergency rescue team that had arrived. Someone tossed a throw rope and pendulumed me to shore.

SOURCE: Written by Joyce Gronsten

ANALYSIS: (Walbridge) Another case of a flush-drowning in difficult water. The comment about his “dazed expression” makes me wonder if he hit his head.


The Narrows of the Ogden River near Salt Lake City, UT is a small, steep stretch of continuous Class V whitewater. Although the flow was only 620 cfs on April 18, continuously difficult rapids made rescue difficult. A paddler, who was boating with a friend, reported meeting a group of three kayakers part way down, just below a large river wide hole. One of these, Mark Anderson, 29, flipped in the hole and rolled on his third attempt. He was pushed sideways into the next rapid where he flipped again. At some point below he came out of his boat.

Observers on a bridge downstream saw him swim by with a dazed expression on his face. He floated passively, making no attempt at self rescue. One of his friends was nearby, shouting encouragement. As the paddler and her partner reached the mouth of the canyon, they caught sight of Anderson's boat washed against a log jam. A boater on shore holding a throw bag reported that Anderson was stuck in the strainer. A second paddler was on the road talking into a cell phone. After scouting, The paddler was able to eddy out behind the jam. She climbed out onto the log and saw Anderson stuck underwater, with a 12" log across his chest. After attempting to lift his head above water without success, the paddler attached a rope to one shoulder of Anderson's PFD. It took four men to pull him free. A rescue squad arrived as the retrieval was going on. They started CPR, but were not successful.

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