River Incident Report #9807000024

Date of Incident: June 3, 1998
River: Colorado
Section of River: Cataract Canyon
Location on River: Big Drop One, Mile 203.2
Relative Flow: Moderate
Gage Reading: 45,400 cubic feet per second
Difficulty: Class IV
Type of Incident: Capsized Boat
Injuries: Hypothermia
Type of Trip: Private
Type of Boat: 14' Raft

Description
A boatman and two passengers were thrown into the river when their raft flipped in Big Drop One. The boatman was able to swim ashore above Big Drop Two, but the passengers were swept downstream.

A Park Service patrol boat was operating above Big Drop Two at the time of the incident, and the Ranger followed the swimmers through Big Drops Two and Three, and retrieved them near Ten Cent Rapid (Rapid 26, Mile 201.0) at the head of the Lake Powell Reservoir. One of the individuals was in good condition, but a 44 year old passenger was exhausted and hypothermic; he was treated and monitored by Rangers. The overturned boat was recovered at the mouth of Imperial Canyon (Mile 200.2).

The party had planned to row down the canyon until the current diminished and to solicit a tow into Hite from a good samaritan who might chance by. However, the boat's oars were lost and upstream winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour rendered downstream progress impossible. So, the Rangers contacted the Hite Ranger Station and made arrangements for a Glen Canyon concessionaire to transport the group to the Hite Marina.

In Retrospect
1) This party was too weak for its undertaking. A 14' raft is a small one for the Big Drops at 45,000 cfs, and upsets are common. Attempting this trip under this condition with only one boat is risky to foolhardy. More boats and more boatmen make it possible for a group to protect itself.
2) Fortuitously, the Ranger and the Park Service patrol boat were present to render the support which the private group lacked.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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