This incident, which occurred several springs ago, involves a group of twelve whitewater paddlers from the Wisconsin area. They had finished running the Baptism, a Class IV+ run, and decided to end the day with a surfing on Lake Superior . The mouth of the river was about thirty feet wide, with a gravel bar on the left and a sheer wall on the right. There was a strong onshore wind, and the waves four to six feet high. Three members of the party were surfing across the mouth of the river and were forced against the rock wall by the current, where they capsized. They were able to work their way away from the wall, only to be pushed far out into the lake by the river’s current. Lake Superior is always extremely cold, and the victims were in grave danger from hypothermia despite their wetsuits. Prompt mobilization of the party allowed all hands and their gear to be rescued by “ferrying” them out of the path of the current, then into shore.
Reported by Fred Young
COMMENTS: The mouths of rivers always have tricky current, and when they empty into large bodies of water a capsized victim may be carried away from shore for miles. In a similar accident, two boys capsized at the mouth of the BruleRiver several years previously while paddling an open canoe. They were swept out into Lake Superior , where they died of hypothermia. In this case, the size and the competence of the party prevented a similar tragedy.