River Raft Recovery

Spring is the season of white water rafting in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Snow melt feeds mountain streams and rivers, creating a two-month long boating season. Here in Pagosa Springs most people are running the town stretch, but a handful are migrating to rivers in the National Forest for more technical rapids. Usually, this means groups of 3 or more boats running together to play safety for each other along the advanced stretches of river. Every once and awhile though, a group tries their hand at Pagosa’s more difficult rivers in the National Forest and winds up with a bit of a headache.

Last week, I spent a day in the forest helping two rafters pack out their boat. They showed up at the Forest Service office cold and tired after tying up their boat before the class five section and hiking themselves 8 miles out after dark, approximately 6 miles on a closed forest service road and 2 miles of uphill climb through untrailed oak brush.

We left early in the morning and tracked through that oak brush, over barb wire, and down a rockslide to find the boat safely secured in an eddy before the pounding rapids. The CFS (river flow) had only increased since their early exit and without other boaters to run safety along the way we made the safe, but time-consuming call to pack the raft out. The raft was deflated and the gear inside was dispersed into 85-liter dry bags. To get through the rockslide section we made a series of pully systems and slowly but surely inch the raft up the mountain side.

After seven hours, 2 rafters, 2 Forest Service employees, and a guide from town who was nice enough to lend a hand, quite literally rolled onto the Forest Service Road with a raft and miscellaneous gear strapped to their backs.

Disclaimer: Know before you go. Do your research of areas in the National Forest before you go and make sure you are recreating within your own personal limits. This was a learning experience for two rafters who could have had a really bad rafting trip had things not gone their way in the end.

1 Comment
  • Riley Blevins
    Posted at 09:46h, 03 June

    Wow! This is such a good lesson in knowing the terrain and water levels before getting into a situation like this. Very cool that you got to help and lucky that it was not a rescue mission but instead a recovery of gear. Sounds like a lot of work!