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Discussion Starter #1
A hell of a paddler, rest in peace

Kayaker-smokejumper from Eastern Oregon dies in Colombia flash flood | The Republic

A former Baker City man who worked as a smokejumper based at Redmond during fire season and spent the rest of the year kayaking the rivers of South America, died Tuesday after being swept away from his campsite during a flash flood in Colombia, South America.

The body of 37-year-old Mark Hentze was found Thursday morning, his father said.

Mark is the son of Dick Hentze and Jan Hentze, both of Baker City, retired longtime elementary school teachers for the Baker School District. Mark’s younger brother, Brad, and his wife, Stephanie, who live at Salem, traveled to Baker City this week after learning that Mark had gone missing.

Preparations are being made to return his remains to Baker City.

“He and a friend were camping on a river that flash flooded,” Dick Hentze said Thursday afternoon. “There is speculation that there had been some kind of log jam that gave way.”

Hentze said his son and his friend were apparently preparing to spend the night on some rocks near the river.

“It surely had to do in some manner with kayaking,” he said.

The family learned Wednesday that the other man camping with Mark had hiked out, reviving hope that Mark might do the same.

The Hentzes, who are divorced, said their son loved kayaking and he loved traveling, especially to Colombia, where he had many friends.

“He really fell in love with the country, the rivers, the geography, the people — he was just very taken with it,” Dick Hentze said.

Mark, who was single, bought his first kayak his first year out of high school when he also began his firefighting career. During the off season he traveled, Dick said.

He had been to Nepal, Argentina, Chile and Peru and made an excursion trip to Antarctica.

The 1993 Baker High School graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in English, from Eastern Oregon University at La Grande in 1998.

His father described him as a talented writer and an accomplished photographer, skills he put to use in his book “Colombia Whitewater.” Published in 2009, the book documents more than 30 rivers in Colombia.

Mark shared his loved of kayaking with his mother, but unlike her son, Jan Hentze said she confines her travels mostly to flat water. Through her enthusiasm for the sport, she has recruited other Baker City friends to join her.

Dick Hentze, on the other hand, said he prefers to row a drift boat.

He said he and Jan, along with Brad and Stephanie, plan at some point to travel to Colombia to learn more about Mark’s life and his friends in South America.

1,826 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
A bit more info on the flash flood that took Mark's life

Mark Hentze was born and raised in Baker City, but after a trip to Colombia in 2005, the avid kayaker and photographer couldn't get the South American country off his mind.

"He fell in love with the people, the rivers and just everything about Colombia," said his father, Dick Hentze.

When he wasn't working as a smokejumper for the U.S. Forest Service out of Redmond, Mark Hentze would paddle Colombia's rivers and explore new terrain. Aside from a trip home for Christmas, Hentze, 37, had been abroad since November, doing what he loved, his father said.

Tuesday night, Hentze camped along a remote stretch of the Santo Domingo River with a traveling companion. Suddenly water rushed through the area -- the river reportedly rose more than 10 feet in 10 seconds. The companion scrambled up a nearby bank, but Hentze was swept away.

His body was found Thursday near the town of San Francisco, in the northwestern province of Antioquia.

"It was a total freak accident," said Aaron Rettig, 26, of Portland, a friend and fellow kayaker. "We identify these different risks in the sport, but you didn't think this would be one of them."

Rettig met Hentze several years ago when the Oregon natives were introduced in Colombia. After several trips, including one that lasted about a year, they teamed up to write "Colombia Whitewater," a well-known guidebook that put the nation on the map for whitewater enthusiasts.

After the guidebook was published in 2009, Rettig said he was ready for new projects in new places. But Hentze wasn't.

"He really never lost focus on Colombia," Rettig said.

Hentze began a nonprofit, Colombia Whitewater, "to promote a positive image of Colombia," his father said. Rettig said he focused on exploring rivers previously inaccessible because of political conflict.

"He'd go down to Colombia and not even have a paddling partner," Rettig said. "But he'd end up paddling with a French paddler here, a Colombian there, an American here ... He just went for it all the time."

Dick Hentze said his son, who graduated from Eastern Oregon State University and was fluent in Spanish, always had a sense of adventure.

"He was raised to enjoy the outdoors," he said. "He'd been backpacking since he was four."

After his ashes are brought back to the U.S., Hentze's family -- which includes his mother, Jan Hentze, and younger brother, Brad -- will scatter them in places important to Mark, Dick Hentze said.

Colombia is on that list. They plan to travel there and see the places Hentze loved.

"Mark wanted us to see Colombia," his father said. "We intend to honor that."

Rettig said the news of Hentze's death has hit people he met hard.

"It's been pretty incredible to see the support from the Colombian community," he said. "It just shows how he really made a huge impact on Colombia whitewater. That was his legacy."

Dick Hentze said he was proud of all that his son accomplished.

"He was a special guy. And that's something we take comfort in," Hentze said. "He was in a place he loved doing something he loved to do. He crammed a lot of living in his 37 years."
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