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What are the general thoughts about lightning on the river? Or actual facts. Ha! Is it better to stay on the river? Pull over and get on land away from the boat? I have a lot of experience with lighting in high alpine situations but have never really heard of any rules for the river. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
 

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You're not grounded if you're sitting in a rubber boat on top of the water. I've been in an aluminum row boat in the middle of a lake and had lightning hit less than 50yds away. Aside from making my ears ring and scaring the hell out of me, no worse for wear. I say ride the lightning!

But really - you should probably get off the water if there's a nasty lightning storm, better to be safer than cooked.
 

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Lightning is a threat on the river, but even more so when you pull closer to the lightning rods(trees) on the bank. I have a lot more to say about this but it's easier to post a link.

https://www.mikeholt.com/mojonewsarchive/LSP-HTML/HTML/LightningQuestions~20020716.htm

Just google "lightning rafting site:www.mountainbuzz.com", and you will see the other 10 threads on this subject.

Interesting story of a strike at camp on the GC and a lot of other great information. Much more in-depth than the last link.

https://rrfw.org/RaftingGrandCanyon/Lightning
 

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no tengo
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Generally you don't want to be on or near the highest point (mountain top, lone tree in field, only boat on a lake), or in a depression/cave where current can arc. charge will build up at the highest points and then arc if the electric field gets high enough.

Now when on the river you are probably not the highest point or anywhere where stray currents can arc to/through you. If current is traveling through the river it probably won't go up through the boat to you.

safest place is in a hollow metal sphere or barring that a steel vehicle. the reason is that current resides on the surface of a conductor not inside it. think of all those electrons trying to repel each other they stay on the surface.
 

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The river is the lowest point in the valley so in theory you should be safer there since lightning seeks the higher points. Regardless, it's out of your hands and when your time is up your time is up, so just do your best to keep your wits about you.

In our neck of the woods, quick lightning onset is often accompanied by hail. I make my decisions on whether to stay on the water or get to the bank based more on what is hammering me the most, be it lightning, hail, rain, or wind on a case by case basis. So ya, there is no rule book.
 

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Misspellingintothefuture!
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Being in the lowest point, insulated by a rubber or plastic boat, has always seemed a better plan to me then shore. Historically speaking, people who stuck to the river seemed to do better then those who went to land, general concept, not lightning specific, case in point, powells men, for instance. Bit of a religious thing for me anymore, I just feel way safer on the river.
I have gotten shocked sitting in hot springs next to the river, never in my boat so far, knock on wood.
 

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Misspellingintothefuture!
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I would have to agree with dostep that it is probably out of your hands, when it's your time, it's just your time.
 

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I think the boat insulating you from a strike is probably not valid. If lightning strikes your boat, you are the high point. That means the order of being struck is your head, then the boat, unless it originates from the ground. Either way, I don't think you'll be around to tell stories about it later.

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If you do a search on "Lightning" you'll find a couple of other threads on the topic in the first couple of pages. I think the general consensus is that you're probably safer on the river than hanging out under a tree or landing and going further up the shore. The late Charlie Gunn told a story of rowing for hours on the MF in a constant crash bam scare the living shit out of you storm and just getting rained and hailed on. This was while we were rowing Whirlpool Canyon through a sheet of white downpour, lightning every 3 seconds, and hail so bad that we had to put our helmets on. DanOrion and David L were there, while red mud flowed down the slopes into the river and rocks tumbled in along with it all. I'm sure we all had the same thought at some point - "Crap, I'll never be able to get my wife to come on another river trip. Ever."

I still don't think I've ever heard of anyone getting struck by lightning just rowing down the river. If anyone's ever heard of it, let's hear the tale.

When I'm on the river in a lightning storm I usually like to stand up on my drybox on the flatwater and shake my fist at the heavens shouting at the top of my lungs in my best Captain Bly accent, "Is that all you've got!?! How about some hail, huh? I ain't scared o' you!, I ain't scared o'your stinkin', silly lightning, I ain't scared o' nothin! I'll take you and all the lightning you can hurl down at me, c'mon and give it to me!!"

No, not really. I actually just get real religious, keep rowing at a steady pace and hope it clears up before we get to camp and I can pitch the tent and change into new, dry, non-stinky pants...

-AH
 
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Jared
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I've been through a fair amount on the Jarbidge and Owyhee the times I was there, and we didn't have any close encounters there. Always seemed to hit higher and away from the water at both locations.
There have been times where we have had lightning in the Willamette valley and I was on a river, but our lighting out here is lame compared to the mid west stuff, so you'd most likely laugh your ass off at what I've seen locally on the Clackamas. The stuff in Idaho and Eastern Oregon was a bit scary though.
 

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no tengo
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I think the boat insulating you from a strike is probably not valid. If lightning strikes your boat, you are the high point. That means the order of being struck is your head, then the boat, unless it originates from the ground. Either way, I don't think you'll be around to tell stories about it later.
You are right that would not be valid even though plastic is an insulator (so is the air). I meant if current was in the water going from one bank to the other.

and what is this nonsense about when its your time? why even wear a PFD then?
 

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Misspellingintothefuture!
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You are right that would not be valid even though plastic is an insulator (so is the air). I meant if current was in the water going from one bank to the other.

and what is this nonsense about when its your time? why even wear a PFD then?

Yes, if you get struck directly by lightning, you will probably die, that's pretty obvious.

Tengo, there is a difference between drowning because you did not where your P.F.D., and a random event.
 

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What are your oars made of?.....

I used to work on a fishing boat in the North Atlantic. We had carbon fiber gaffs that were stored vertically along the rails. Right before a strike, they would rattle like hell. Scary noise when you're many miles from land.

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I'm going with the river is the best place to be.

Was on the eagle river and saw/felt a bolt that hit a large tree maybe 100' in front of our raft while floating. Heart skipped a beat from the sonic boom, bolt seemed to be as wide as the tree we were so close.

The bolt hit the tree that was literally rooted in at river level and the section we were in had some rising hills next to the river with other trees and structures. Terrified of lightning ever since.


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The interesting thing about the GC incident is that the only folks injured were NOT wearing shoes. Everyone that had shoes on was fine.
 

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Yes, if you get struck directly by lightning, you will probably die, that's pretty obvious.
It may seem obvious but, like a lot of things, the actual evidence says otherwise.

Only about 10% of strikes are fatal. From the NOLS article reposted by RRFW:

The U.S. has had about 40 lightning fatalities and 400 lightning injuries per year over the past decade (per NOAA annual summaries).
This guy got struck twice and lived:

Struck by Lightning Twice

-AH
 
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