Yesterday a group of four of us set out in two paddle boats to run the Lower Blue. Originally, the plan was to run the first section to the kayaker take out. But the group opted for a longer day and the shuttle was set near the Gore put in, before the oxbows. Everything was going great until the third diversion dam. The first paddle boat bumped down the left side. The second paddle boat (a mini-me) went for the center, which was sticky. It was so sticky that both paddlers were immediately ejected on the first stage of the drop. One paddler swam clear of the hole and through the second part of the drop, while the other was sucked back under the boat, then tried to climb back into the boat unsuccessfully, and then also swam clear to the nearest eddy. The paddle boat downstream caught most of the gear that had come free from the mini-me. The mini-me paddlers/swimmers thought the raft was certain to come out of the hole. They watched and waited, standing guard to warn other river users of the hazard and ready to swim for the boat in case it came free. Of course, this was trespassing on Jones ranch.
After more than half an hour of watching the mini-me endo, spin, and surge in the hole the reality of the situation changed. Both swimmers were exhibiting signs of hypothermia, and it was getting late in the day. A paddler from the first boat took over watch and the two swimmers changed into the warm clothing available from the first boat. One cell phone was available on the first boat, and service was available in an open area nearby. Outside help was informed of the situation, and asked to help evaluate the situation. In addition, one of the swimmers had a spot device in her life jacket. The spot device was used to inform the outside help of the exact location without calling out EMS.
One plan had been to haul the other boat back up river and launch with all four paddlers in the boat to knock the mini-me loose. However, with two of the paddlers already compromised, this seemed risky. Consultation with outside help indicated that the nearest public access was 1-2 miles upstream at Spring Creek road bridge. It was decided that the first paddle boat would leave some supplies with the mini-me crew and continue downstream. Outside help would go to the nearest public access upstream and call the BLM and the sheriff, to inform them of the hazard, and indicate that everyone was ok. The mini-me crew was still on watch for river traffic as the first paddle boat left. Shortly after the first paddle boat left a fishing raft came down. The mini-me crew got the fishermen's attention before they entered the diversion structure. After one aborted attempt, the fishing boat squared up and pushed hard, landing right on top the mini-me which was perpendicular to the fishing rig. The entire shit show surged backwards in to the hole, but a good push from the oarsman -whose oars could barely reach the water- got the mess free. One member of the mini-me crew was on shore with a throw bag and used it to help to pull the oar rig, which was high centered on the mini-me, to shore.
Once the boats were separated, the fisherman gave the mini-me crew each a beer. It was decided that since outside help had already been engaged, the mini-me crew would hike the boat upstream to Spring Creek road. Just as the mini-me crew had sorted through their belongings, packed them up, and started walking with the heavy load, a ranch SUV arrived. The mini-me crew explained the situation and apologized profusely for trespassing. It turned out the fishing raft had seen these ranch fishermen and told them about the situation. The ranch guys were there to help. The mini-me crew and all of their crap was taken to the Spring Creek road gate, where outside help arrived shortly afterwards. The mini-me crew arrived at the take out just as the first paddle boat as unloading.
All in all, the mini-me surfed the diversion dam for two hours. The only lost gear was a small cooler. The group struggled to balance personal safety with leaving a hazard in the river. Fortunately, the fishermen came along and risked there own safety to knock the boat free, making our night much shorter. We get by with a little help from our river friends.
Have at it buzzards.