River Incident Report #9807000013

Date of Incident: May 26, 1998
River: Green
Section of River: Labyrinth Canyon
Location on River: : Opposite Beaver Bottom, Mile 34.5
Relative Flow: High
Gage Reading: 21,600 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Flat Water, but with waves up to 2 feet high as a result of high winds
Type of Incident: Capsized Kayaks
Injuries: Minor Abrasions and Bruise
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: 2 Scupper Pro Kayaks

Description
A husband, 38, and wife, 40, were in the second day of a four day kayak trip from Mineral Bottom to the confluence of the Green and Colorado Rivers when they encountered high winds and waves two feet high near Potato Bottom (Mile 37.0). Striking a tree near shore, the wife tipped over and swam until she was swept into another tree where she became entangled. In attempting to free his wife, the husband's kayak also turned over. Both parties then hung onto his kayak until they were able to gain shore opposite from Beaver Bottom on the Maze-side of the river.

The latter stage of the incident was witnessed by a private biking party on The Island In The Sky-side of the river, and this group established voice contact with the pair who requested assistance. Attempts to summon aid by cellular telephone through a commercial biking party were unsuccessful, and the kayakers were told help would arrive the following day.

A Park Ranger on White Rim patrol became aware of the situation on the morning of May 27 when informed by the witnessing groups of bikers. The Ranger made voice contact with the kayakers, solicited aid from a private boating group in transporting the stranded kayakers to the opposite side of the river, and arranged transportation to Mineral Bottom and Moab.

The wife suffered minor abrasions and a bruised knee; the husband was uninjured. The lost boating equipment was valued at $2,100. The kayak was found about six weeks later, pinned and partly submerged in Rapid 5 in Cataract Canyon; half of the missing equipment was recovered by a commercial boating party, and subsequently returned.

In Retrospect
1) Flat water trips become white water trips in high winds. These kayakers were not experienced in white water and should have beached their kayaks as soon as they realized they were in difficulty.
2) The couple did wear its life jackets, the lack of which might have had serious consequences.
3) It should be noted that the Green River in Labyrinth and Stillwater Canyons is shielded by the topography from towers which handle the traffic of cellular telephones.
4) Brush, fallen trees, undercut rocks or anything else which allows river current to sweep through can pin boaters against an obstacle. Water pressure on anything trapped this way can be overwhelming. Rescue is often extremely difficult. Pinning may occur in fast current, with little or no whitewater to warn of the danger. On occasion, strainers can be avoided by an awareness of their existence and aggressive swimming away from them.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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