• Spires of Cedar Mesa sandstone in Chesler Park (Needles District)

    Canyonlands

    National Park Utah

There are park alerts in effect.
show Alerts »
  • Extreme Fire Danger

    Due to extremely dry conditions, fire restrictions are in effect in all national park units in Utah. More »

  • New backcountry requirements in effect

    Hard-sided bear containers are required for backpackers in parts of the Needles District. More »

River Incident Report #937011

Date of Incident: June 3, 1993
River: Colorado
Section of River: Cataract Canyon
Location on River: Between Mile 205.0 and Mile 201.8
Relative Flow: High
Gage Reading: 63,300 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Class V
Type of Incident: Swimming
Injuries: Drowning
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: None

Description
On Thursday, June 3, 1993, a 51 year old male drowned while attempting to swim through the rapids in Cataract Canyon. He was last seen alive at the head of Mile Long Rapid at 12:00 where he stopped and ate a sandwich with a friend who was leading a one boat commercial raft trip. The friend offered passage aboard his boat, but the swimmer declined, indicating that he was enjoying his activity and had always wanted to swim the canyon at 60,000 cfs. The victim's body was sighted by Rangers in an eddy at river-right below the tongue of Rapid 24 at 13:58. The temperature of the water was approximately 65 degrees; the high temperature for the day at The Island In The Sky was 75 degrees, but it was somewhat warmer in Cataract Canyon.

The victim had 25 years of experience as a boatman and was an expert swimmer, having swum Cataract Canyon several times, including a passage in 1983 when the river was flowing 83,000 cfs. He was also well outfitted for his trip wearing: two full length wet suits under a wet suit top, wet suit hood, Type III life jacket, swim fins, and boaters gloves. He carried a small flotation bag containing emergency supplies, warm clothes, concentrated foods, and even maps of his ingress route and intended egress. The bag and one fin were missing at the time of his recovery, but the bag was found against the bank of the river at Mile 198.7 at 18:25.

In Retrospect
This type of accident is impossible to prevent. The man was aware of the danger inherent in swimming through Cataract Canyon and wished to accomplish the feat at what some consider its most dangerous stage. Canyonlands National Park does not encourage or condone swimming in the canyon, but has no regulations forbidding it.

Did You Know?

Pinyon Pine

Pinyon pines do not produce pine nuts every year. These delicious nuts can only be harvested every three to seven years. This irregular schedule prevents animals from adapting to an abundance of pine nuts and guarantees that at least some nuts will become new pine trees instead of a quick meal. More...