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Old 06-26-2008   #51
producerchik's Avatar
Lakewood, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
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Originally Posted by rivermanryan View Post
Smelter is not that dangerous, you've got to be kidding about "big holes" At 3500 there are no holes in the classic sense, some bordering on wave holes, but we don't hit those. Swim it sometime with me! I have never seen anyone at anytime stuck in a hydraulic in Smelter. Yeah, it would be a little frightening for my kids to swim it, but their lives wouldn't be in danger. Hyde- I'm sure you can chime in here since your son swam it at 5 yrs old.

I don't know the Arkansas that well at 3000, but I can't see the section below Salida being any more difficult than the Durango town run at the same flow. I think there are certain runs to avoid, but I don't think we need to criminalize an entire river. Actually, I believe the Ark is pretty safe. It seems like the deaths that have occured have been due to external factors other than the "rocks and water" and usual whitewater hazards (foot entrapment, sieves). Maybe extended swims (but it seems that comes from inexperience and not swimming aggressively).

I want my kids to have many days of enjoyment on the river. Even a bad day of a short swim could be enough to make them not like it anymore, so I will go with the rest of the flow and made other plans for the kiddos this weekend. I just feel like there is some fear mongering going on anytime there are some flipped rafts and close calls. I love getting the feedback on the buzz (love you guys), but the decision is always the parents and I don't like to be judged for what I deem a safe section of river even if the flow is high. I will make the decision as I read the river.
That's fine. You can disagree. I'm just saying I don't think a 4 year old should have to swim in Smelter. Holes that are not big to you, are probably big to them. Plus, 4 year olds don't understand the concept of swimming aggressively to shore. They're not strong swimmers yet. Their muscles are not strong enough yet. I am sure any doctor or swim instructor will tell you this. Children that young should not be swimming in swift moving water like this. A lake, a different story. Anyhow, good luck this weekend and I hope you guys have a safe trip, where ever you choose to go.

Check out my whitewater rafting blog, at
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Old 06-26-2008   #52
Bend, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 141
Interesting thoughts on this.

Rivermanryan, it seems like you've have made a vary balanced and informed decision to take your family down the river but to assume you are "in complete control" in such a dynamic environment smells a bit like Icarus.

Anyway, I have two points on this incident: First, this is normally a very easy stretch, normally class two with one class III- (badger creek). Too many raft companies set their policies based on low water so accidents like this happen when the river changes character with higher water. Regardless, rafts can hit strainers and run into all kinds of issues even on a scenic run. If a person would be at risk in the water, they should not be on the raft. Rivermanryan is an example of someone who knows the river, knows his kids, and is making a calculated decision. In a commercial setting, there is nobody who possesses all of that information.

There has been a lot of blame passed around and everyone seems to have some liability here. Nobody really mentioned the guide though. If I hire a guide, it's because I don't trust my own lack of knowledge in a situation. It is ultimately the guide who is trained and trusted to know the risks of the situation and should not have allowed the kid on his/her raft. I used to work for a raft company owned by business people, not guides. There were numerous times when I refused a customer on my raft or trip because the combination of person and environment didn't add up that day. Sometimes people got really pissed and sometimes my bosses did but the former are still alive and the latter are still in business. If I show up for something new to me, say paragliding, I really hope the guide has the courage to tell me I'm too fat, old or whatever for the situation. I knew a guide who didn't feel good about a situation, and ended up losing a client. She never guided again and was still messed up over it years later. Nobody wants that either.

Vaya Con Rios!

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Old 06-26-2008   #53
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Durango, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1999
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 580
Well said MikeG. And you are right, rivers are very dynamic and control is only relative to the ever changing, dynamic river. It is a calculated risk that I assume for my kids. This is why I am not bringing the big boat and the kids will be on the sidelines for this weekend. I just hope I don't get down there and see nice Class II wave trains everywhere and regret it. And if so, oh well, there will be other days.
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Old 06-27-2008   #54
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C. Springs, Colorado
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DISNEYLAND........with a death factor.
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Old 06-27-2008   #55
oh yeah
Join Date: Oct 2003
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salida east is II+ at high flows. i don't really see the problem w/ a 4y.o. rafting it. the boat flipped and the kid got out. what's the issue? i have a 2 1/2 y.o. that rafted big bend to salida twice last summer. take responsibility for your actions. don't blame the company. i also took my 4 y.o. nephew on a commercial browns canyon trip a few years back. the cut off was 6 i believe and i lied saying he was of age. at that time the kid could surf and swim and he had a blast.

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Old 06-27-2008   #56
Park City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1985
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One thing this thread shows is that we all have really different parenting styles. My kids know that when they can swim a length ofthe pool, they can use any Kayak in the shed in the neighborhood lake. It has been a good motivational tool to keep them after their swimming. Others say put them in a current. Other say, my nephew is a stud so I take them in class III at 4.

I've seen an olympic level athelete beaten up in a class III high water hole to the point he could barely walk when we roped him out. I don't want my 2 year old comfortable in a current yet. I have just the opposite problem. Lack of fear causes him to go head first into bad situations.

I guess in the end I put blame for any situation with kids under 6 or 7 on the parents. Thank god the kid is alright and we can now second guess them without a fatality. With water, I'll error on the side of caution with my kids.
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Old 06-27-2008   #57
Dipshit with the most.
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Bellevue, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,496
As a 15 yr guide and now private boater, the "blame" for this lies completely with the raft company.

Outfitted trips are for the general public who does not have the tools, skills or equipment to do the trip on their own. Without experience the peeps simply do not have the knowledge to evaluate the risks and make an informed decision about what is appropriate for their children.

I boated our local class 3 section with my 2 and a half yr old last year, and she had a blast. Could something have happened? Sure, but with 2 very competent adults in the boat and an action plan for what to do for both of us if the unthinkable happened, it seemed worth it to me.

We are doing a family trip this fall on the Main Salmon. My kids will be 3 and a half and seven. The little one may walk around Big Mallard and Elkhorn but I am more concerned about their shore awareness than anything happening in the boat.

I also took a quadriplegic down this section ( commercially ) a few years ago. He had two helpers in the front of the boat we had an extra safety boat and the young man had a blast. Not high water, but it wasn't low either. Was this irresponsible? I don't think so. He couldn't self-rescue at all so by some criteria he shouldn't go.

Also had an 80 yr old woman from N Carolina go down the Middle Fork with me at 5 feet ( relatively high) in a paddle boat, and she was one of the best paddlers I had all summer. Not all of the seniors are incompetent.

Don't know what the Colorado "waivers" look like, but their isn't a waiver in existence that protects a company from negligent behaviour. Negligence is exactly that.

We had our peeps sign an Acknowledgement of Risk form. This covers the idea that it is a wild river, things happen that can't be forseen sometimes. But if a guide were to float into a hole on purpose during high water and try to flip with a boat load of peeps with no wetsuits, helmets etc, that would be a case that could be pursued for negligence.

My two cents.
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Old 06-27-2008   #58
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 20
What a bunch of terrible parents, taking your kids down the river without permission from the auuthorities or this chat board? Why not just smear them in bacon fat and air drop them into the Yellowstone backcountry? Or send them to Neverland Ranch for a sleepover?

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Old 06-27-2008   #59
Charleston, South Carolina
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 2
In response to the writer. I happen to have met this family and just spoke with them about the events. Last year they took the same trip with their older child. The trip was on the Salida East not Browns. Last year the trip was 99% the same as a float trip on a tube. Their feeling was they would give both children the opportunity to experience the event again. When the family went in to the company they were told that the river was up but should not be much change. They however were not informed of the many deaths this year on the Ark. River. The parents would have never put their kids in that spot if that would have been told to them. Now agree a four year old probably should not be on one, but the company should have given a much much better description of the river and all that went with it. Also how did the boat flip on the first set of rapids at the beginning of those rapids with an experience guide. Seems to me some more training may be needed. I know, I know the river throws curves all the time, but on the first rapid. Something wrong here. It was very unfortunate that this happened. By the way remember the parents are from texas and they were only aware of what it was like last year. Wow what a change! By the way all is very well with them! That is the important aspect!
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Old 06-27-2008   #60
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Buena Vista, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2005
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I learned from an anonymous(?), but reliable source at the beginning of this season that Canon Marine only had one guide come back that was experienced enough to provide training for all the rookies they had to hire. I happen to know this guide and he is a highly skilled professional, but with that kind of staff they are lucky this is the worst accident they have had...
I would think that with an owner who is a member of the Fire department and search and rescue they would be a little more cautious...

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