Rafting party rescued from Roaring Fork River near Aspen Glen
June 12, 2017
Private rafters got pinned in the Roaring Fork River near Aspen Glen on Monday afternoon after missing a tight maneuver and going head-on into a logjam.
The river in that section was nearing 5,000 cubic feet per second, during prime high water season.
After more than three hours of efforts, emergency crews rescued the rafters around 4 p.m. No injuries resulted.
This trip was a private boat trip of seven adults and two children. The party was stranded on a small island in the middle of the river, topped on the upstream side by a dangerous collection of logs, branches and debris, after their raft became trapped under logs, according to a news release from the Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District.
Blake MacDougal, from New Castle, was rafting with his family, some visiting from Wisconsin. MacDougal said this was a simple case of "pilot error."
"We should have stayed river left, but with the high water we thought the middle channel would be open," he said. "This was a fun trip that went to hell in a hand basket."
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The crew was also not the most experienced, he added.
When the boaters couldn't make the move, they pummeled straight into the logjam, which had protruding debris that pierced a front tube.
Though the family waited on the small island surrounded by swift currents for about three-and-a-half hours, MacDougal praised the search and rescue assistance. All of the emergency responders will be invited to Stubbies in Basalt, which MacDougal co-owns, for beer and food, he said.
A tethered rescue boat was used to move the rafters to another island, followed by a shallow water crossing to safety.
Garfield County Sheriff's Department, Garfield County Search & Rescue and Basalt fire crews were also part of the rescue.
"The river is beautiful and inviting, but please remember that it is relentless. Safety in and near the river is critical for everyone enjoying all that the rivers have to offer,” said Carbondale Deputy Chief Rob Goodwin in the release.
Lt. James Dirkes of Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District was one of the rescuers on the islands helping to retrieve the family members one at a time.
"Any thrill seekers who want to ride the high water need to come prepared," he said, after everyone was safely off on dry land. "This is not a leisurely cruise; high water levels are incredibly labor intensive."
New obstacles appear in the river during high water, such as logs and sticks and debris pilling up, he said. "With excessive flows also come excessive strainers."
"But no one was hurt today, so it was a good day," said Dirkes.