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Boating Safety - back to the basics

June 23, 2009
Author: Trouts Staff

Last Saturday (June 20, 2009), a local Denvepfd1r angler died while floating the upper Colorado River from Pumphouse to Radium.  The specific details of the incident are still unclear, but there are a few key facts that are known.  First, the Colorado River that day was flowing at around 4,000 cfs, twice it’s 47 year historical average.  Second, the victim was a skilled and qualified oarsman.  Third, he was ejected from his raft in the Eye of the Needle Rapid.  And lastly, he WAS NOT wearing any sort of PFD (personal flotation device).

Rafting is an inherently dangerous sport, and I feel as though the greater angling community sometimes forgets this.  Whether it is the relaxing nature of our sport, or the relative calmness of many of our favorite rivers, float fisherman seem to forget and disregard the dangers that floating any river hold.  Keep in mind that this is not the first accident to have taken place in the Eye of the Needle rapid so far this season.  To date, 4 drift boats have flipped and sank, and countless rafts have also been victim to this particular rapid.  Why is this?  In my opinion, boaters are not recognizing the dangers that loom on this section of water when flows get above 3,000 cfs.  I will agree that at lower flows, Eye of the Needle and many other rapids are fairly tame and easy to navigate.  But we are not in a low water situation right now.  Quite the contrary, river flows across the state are at historical highs, and many of the “easy” rapids we’re used to boating are much bigger, more pushy and very dangerous.

Until we see flows come down, all float fisherman need to be very cautious and safe when venturing out for a float.  Be familiar with the river you are on, particularly in terms of knowing how certain flows will effect the difficulty of rapids.  And please, please, please, where your lifejacket.  Although cumbersom and bulky, this is the one piece of gear that will save your life in the case of an emergency.

Be safe and tight lines,


P.S.  My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims family and friends.

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