Location: White City (tad north of Medford) Oar-E-Gone
The Rogue River claims another ...
Over the past few years this has become far too common.
July 19, 2013
By Mark Freeman
GOLD BEACH — The Rogue River's remote Blossom Bar claimed its second life in five days Wednesday when a Washington state man died after the raft he was in flipped at the rapid's set of rocks known as the Picket Fence.
Steven Boyd, 66, of Walla Walla, apparently struck his head on a rock when he and two others were pitched into the signature Class IV rapid within the Rogue's Wild and Scenic Section about 52 miles east of Gold Beach, according to the Curry County Sheriff's Department.
All three were wearing life jackets and the other two rafters were able to float through the remainder of the lengthy rapid with only minor injuries, deputies said.
Boyd's body was pulled from the Rogue by other rafters, who performed CPR on him as a Mercy Flights helicopter was sent in, but Boyd was deemed dead shortly after they arrived, according to Sheriff John Bishop.
A South Carolina man whose raft wrapped around the Picket Fence on July 12 died after he fell into the water while trying to dislodge his raft.
Steven D. Hoyer, of Spartanburg, was wearing a life jacket and helmet when rafters plucked his body from the river downstream of Blossom Bar, deputies said.
It was unclear Thursday whether either man drowned or died from some other reason, according to Bishop. Both cases have been sent to the county's medical examiner to determine their cause of death, he said.
The thrill of negotiating a raft, driftboat or kayak through the multi-maneuver Blossom Bar draws experienced floaters from all corners the country. However, the rapid also has earned the dubious distinction as the most dangerous in a 34-mile, three- to four-day float through the Wild and Scenic Section.
One of its toughest features is that a single mis-stroke or other mistake can put boaters in situations where assistance or rescues can be extremely difficult.
"There's this myth that the Rogue River is an easy river," says Brad Niva, owner of Rogue Wilderness Adventures in Merlin. "But Blossom Bar is not a gentle rapid if you have a problem there."
While some are attributing the fatalities in part due to low Rogue flows, the flow there this week of about 1,700 cubic feet per second is fairly common during parts of the rafting season, Niva says.
"We run it at that level all summer and fall and it's never been a problem," Niva says of his guide fleet.
Still, enough of the up to 120 boaters who launch daily into the Wild and Scenic Section continue to struggle with slowing their boats down enough to slide it right across the face of the Picket Fence before dropping into the eddy beneath it.
Four rafts wrapped around portions of the Picket Fence last week, "and there's one there today (Thursday)," Niva says.
"When they are coming into that thing they sometimes freeze up," Niva says. "They know that they have to pull, but they don't do it."
The lower water, however, "closes the door on the fudge factor" to get through safely, he says.
As a designated Wild and Scenic river, the section is managed jointly by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management under strict rules meant to keep it wild.
"It's part of the Wild Rogue River and we can't change the construct of a flowing river to make it safer," BLM spokesman Jim Whittington says. "People have to understand if they raft, they do so at a risk."
Like in Hoyer's case, the trio involved in Wednesday's sinking were considered experienced boaters, sheriff's deputies said.
Most rafting fatalities associated with Blossom Bar happen at the Picket Fence, with two boaters dying there in separate drownings in mid-July 2008.
However, those accidents occurred during a high-flow summer when flows through Blossom Bar were almost 50 percent higher than normal, records show."
Location: White City (tad north of Medford) Oar-E-Gone
Re: The Rogue River claims another ...
Trust me its not a place you fool around! At low water flows, like now, you'd better be damned good on the oars. There's another one on the upper river called 'Rattlesnake' for a very good reason. Only one way you can run same at present water flows. You try something else and you, and your boat, are toast.
Part that's a bit odd about "BB" is in most cases you want boat speed to shoot you through once you get lined up. With "BB" you don't want boat speed; you're pulling as hard on the oars as you can to slow you up.
Actually most of the Rogue is fairly benign when it comes to a float, which is what gets people into trouble. Especially at flows below 2,000 cfs.
It's always bad news when hearing about such things Fred. As I believe you know, I have some rafts and do some floating. I've been using canoes, drift boats, pontoon rafts and river boats for many years now. When I was new to the water I thought I wanted a challenge. After some very bad days through which I lived as well as my passengers I became gun shy. Now when using the rafts I stop well above rapids and walk down to have a look. Almost 100% of the time I walk the raft around the shore line rather than take any risk. If I'm told that there is a 'canyon' where you can't get past without floating the wild water, I just won't go.
People die here every year in boating accidents, sometimes rafters, other times river boats that get swamped. So far this year I've logged just over 1200 miles on the rivers and I'm constantly aware of the dangers that can come so very quickly with just one mistake. Now days I'm running the Skwentna river up through Skwentna Canyon to reach another river I am learning. This is the angriest river I've ever navigated. It's amazingly swift with rapids, sand bars, and more branching and braiding than can be remembered from one trip to the next. It (the Skwentna) has served to keep me very aware of how bad things could get in a matter of seconds.
Be safe out there on the water folks because it's still better to be safe than sorry, or worse.