River Incident Report #937001

Date of Incident: March 7, 1993
River: Colorado
Section of River: Cataract Canyon
Location on River: Rapid 5, Mile 210.5
Relative Flow: Low
Gage Reading: 6,840 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: N/A
Type of Incident: Boating
Injuries: Malnutrition and Dehydration
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: Fiberglass Canoe

Description:
A semiconscious, 37 year old man was found beside Rapid 5 in Cataract Canyon by a commercial boating group. He was suffering from dehydration and malnutrition and was unable to see or speak. First aid was administered by the group which included a registered nurse, and a boat was dispatched to report the incident to a Park Ranger at Hite. A helicopter was summoned and the patient was picked up at 02:50, March 8, and transported to a hospital. A day later the man was released in satisfactory condition.

The victim sought to escape his personal problems by traveling through an unpopulated area which he selected from the sparse appearances of towns on a road map. He sold his car, bought a fiberglass canoe, a little food, and a rifle with which he intended to live off of the land. He had no knowledge or map of the area . He embarked at Green River on February 2, and after several days without seeing any game, continued downstream to the confluence with the Colorado River, arriving on February 19. He was unaware that he was in a National Park or that dangerous rapids existed downstream.

The following morning his canoe was inundated in the first four rapids, and when he reached the fifth, he determined it was impassable. Leaving his canoe tied along a rocky bank, the man attempted to climb out of the canyon unsuccessfully, and upon returning to his camp found the canoe badly damaged from banging on rocks. Thus, from February 20 until March 7, he subsisted on six cans of green beans, some noodles, coffee, and a mouse.

In Retrospect:
1) Occurrences like this are impossible to prevent.
2) Although the victim had some outdoor experience, his lack of specific knowledge prevented his obtaining more adequate equipment. Had he made inquiries, he might have changed the locale for his isolation.
3) The man was fortunate he was found. One in difficulty may anticipate the frequent passage of responsible river groups during the boating season, but they are uncommon early in March.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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