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River Incident Report #937010

Date of Incident: May 29, 1993
River: Colorado
Section of River: Cataract Canyon
Location on River: Big Drop Two
Relative Flow: High
Gage Reading: 69,900 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Class V
Type of Incident: Disintegrated Boat
Injuries: Double Fatality
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: Cabin Cruiser (1968 Chrysler Tri-hull with jet drive)

Description
Three men, ages 41, 70, and 77 were thrown into Big Drop Two (Mile 202.5) without life jackets when their boat broke apart in the part of the rapid known as Little Niagara. The 41 year old survivor was able to hold onto a loose jacket when the boat disintegrated. The men were part of the annual Friendship Cruise, a flat water trip which proceeds singly or in groups, down the Green River from Green River, Utah, to the confluence with the Colorado River, and then up the Colorado to Moab, Utah. The junction of the rivers was not recognized and the boat turned right, into Cataract Canyon. The warning sign for dangerous rapids was not seen, and the fact that they were in Cataract Canyon was not realized until the boat reached the South Sea (Mile 206.5), at which place the boat had insufficient power for navigating upstream. The wreck occurred at about 17:30, weather conditions were not a factor, the temperature of the water being about 60 degrees and that of the air in the 80's.

Parts of the boat were perceived by a commercial boating group and nearby Rangers were notified in their camp at Ten Cent Rapid (Mile 201.0) at 17:40, and a search was initiated immediately. The survivor was found below Big Drop Three (Mile 202.0) at 18:10. Numerous searches by helicopter for several days and boats for several weeks failed to find the missing victims.

In Retrospect
1) Life jackets are the law in Cataract Canyon, but legalities aside, they should always be worn in rough water.
2) Appropriate equipment, including boats, is necessary for whitewater; Cataract Canyon is no place for a cabin cruiser.
3) When discerning you have erred and are in a dangerous situation, stop and wait for help, or make other arrangements for your welfare. Do not proceed.
4) If unfamiliar with your surroundings, keep track of your location on a good map.

Did You Know?

Desert Bighorn Sheep

Desert bighorn sheep live year-round in Canyonlands. These animals make their home along the rivers, negotiating the steep, rocky talus slopes with ease. Once in danger of becoming extinct, desert bighorns are making a tentative comeback thanks to the healthy herds in Canyonlands. More...