Crews suspend search for missing kayaker on Crystal River near Redstone

Man went under Thursday night; searchers find man’s boat using drones

A kayaker is missing on the Crystal River in the "Meatgrinder" section (seen here) near Redstone, officials said Friday morning.
Heather Marine / Special to Colorado Mountain News Media

Officials have suspended search efforts Friday night for a kayaker who is missing after going into a treacherous section of the Crystal River on Thursday night, an official said Friday evening.

The 41-year-old man — a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen — entered a difficult section of the river called the “Meatgrinder” near the first Highway 133 entrance to Redstone around 8 p.m. Thursday, was pulled under the water and not seen again, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Friday morning.

The man was kayaking with two others at the time and “was released from his kayak,” the Sheriff’s Office said in an update Friday night.

The swift-water search and recovery was conducted all day Friday by crews from the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. Crews used drones Friday to search downstream from the area where he disappeared, he said. They looked from the section north of Redstone down river to the Penny Hot Springs.

“I really think it is far too dangerous to go in (to that section of river Friday morning) and look for him,” DiSalvo said.

By Friday afternoon, crews searching from the riverbank had recovered the man’s boat, though his body had not yet been found, the sheriff said. Authorities were notifying the man’s next of kin Friday and have not yet released his name.

Crews were hoping the water might go down in the late afternoon and provide an opportunity to better scout the rapid for the man’s body, DiSalvo said. The sheriff said just before 6 p.m. that operations were called off for the night and they “will reassess in the morning” the situation and changing conditions.

The Meatgrinder is “fast-paced, stout, and full of sieves and undercuts,” according to the nonprofit river group American Whitewater. The section can be a “high-consequence run” and is known to have a large amount of wood that gets caught on the rocks, according to the group’s online description.

The river was running at about 800 cubic feet per second Thursday night around 8 p.m. and rising, according to the water station operated by the U.S. Geological Survey located just downriver of the Meatgrinder. The river usually flows between 500 and 1,100 Cfs, according to the American Whitewater group, which also says the section of the Crystal “picks up really quick with more flow.”

The Sheriff’s Office update Friday night said the river is running “high and heavy. Conditions in and around the river are dangerous to the public and rescue personnel.”

“From what I understand, this is a pretty dangerous area of rapids on the Crystal,” Jenny Cutright, spokeswoman for Carbondale Fire, said Friday.

DiSalvo also warned boaters to be very cautious in the area of the Meatgrinder.

“All river users have to be very careful of that section of river this time of year,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous section of river.”

Emergency vehicles parked near the north entrance to Redstone on Friday. Officials were searching for a kayaker who went missing Thursday in that area on the Crystal River.
Heather Marine / Special to Colorado Mountain News Media

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