From Friday, March 21 to Sunday, March 23rd three inches of warm rains fell on mountain snowpack of the Siskyou Mountains of Southern Oregon. The Illinois River, a multi-day Class IV-V trip, rose from a low of 1700 to a high of over 17,000 cfs, a rise of over fifteen feet. Since the river is normally run between 900 and 3000 cfs, this sudden rise raised havoc with weekend river runners. Several parties never launched; a single crew made it out ahead of the surge. One group hiked back to the put-in after the flow doubled overnight; while another chose to stay put and was pulled out by helicopter on Monday. Two parties had flips in or near the Class V Green Wall rapid that resulted in fatalities. Coast Guard rescue helicopters picked up ten people, six of whom had flipped boats and become stranded in a sheer-walled section of the canyon. The story was picked up by CNN and other mainline media. My thanks to all those who forwarded clippings and reports
On Saturday morning at 10 AM Jeff Alexander, 37, launched in a small raft, paddling tandem with a partner. The group also included three kayaks. They portaged the Green Wall at around 1:00 PM Sunday and planned to do the same at the Little Green Wall downstream. The raft missed the take-out eddy; capsized in a pourover, and the pair was in the water. Alexander had a drysuit neck gasket repaired with duct tape. When he entered the water the seal blew out. Water poured in, making swimming difficult and increasing his vulnerability to the cold. Party members saw him float under water for long periods despite his PFD. His partner was carried 5 miles downstream before she reached shore. The group recovered and secured Alexander's body, then two of the three kayakers boated out to get help. One of the kayakers and Alexander's partner were evacuated by helicopter the following day.