River Incident Report #750017

Date of Incident: June 20, 1975
River: Colorado
Section of River: Cataract Canyon
Location on River: Rapid 3
Relative Flow: Moderate
Gage Reading: 47,700 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Class II
Type of Incident: Log Riding
Injuries: Drowning
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: None

Two men, age 24, were in the Needles on a multi-day trip, which included a night at Spanish Bottom where they explored and camped. At 14:00 on Friday, the second day in Cataract Canyon, the men decided to ride the first few rapids on a log. According to the survivor the first two rapids were negotiated easily and they paused to scout the third (Mile 211.6) before swimming and pushing the log into the channel. The current proved stronger than expected and they abandoned the log in favor of a nearby island. One swimmer reached the island and the other, determining that he could not, was last seen attempting to regain the log. Neither man wore a life jacket.

After an hour or two the survivor swam the narrower channel between the island and the shore (river-left) and hiked back to camp where he contacted a commercial river party. The group searched along the banks of the river for the missing companion, and on Saturday and Sunday the survivor rode with the river group to Hite where the accident was reported. Subsequent searches by land parties, boating groups, and fixed-wing aircraft yielded no result. The victim was finally sighted by a visitor on Friday, June 27, in the Glen Canyon Recreation Area, at the mouth of Sheep Canyon (Mile 177.0). The site is near the end of Cataract Canyon where it is inundated by the Powell Reservoir.

In Retrospect
A lack of experience, knowledge, and life jackets are a poor combination for survival in the rapids of Cataract Canyon.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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