Rafter dies after falling into Colorado River in Garfield County

A rafter died after falling into the hard-rushing Colorado River between Grizzly Creek and the Shoshone Hydroelectric Facility.

The incident happened on Sunday when two people fell out of a raft, other group members got both people to shore, but a 34-year-old man could not be revived, according to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. The man was wearing a personal flotation device and a helmet. He was rafting with a party of five at the time of the incident.

“Water levels are predicted to come up even more in the next couple weeks and stay at a high level for over a month. River safety should be our biggest concern right now,” said Garfield County Emergency Manager Chris Bornholdt in a news release. “Navigating the river is tricky under normal conditions and when you add 3-4 times the amount of water and speed, things can happen really fast.”

In Garfield County, the Colorado River is reaching peak water flows and the Roaring Fork and Crystal Rivers will follow closely behind, according to county officials. Extreme conditions will continue over the next four to six weeks as mountain snow melts. Anyone using the river should do so only in watercraft intended for white water conditions, county officials said.

“Understand these high waters of the Colorado River and contributing streams and rivers are intense with strong undertows and opportunities for even the best and most experienced river runners to find themselves in harm’s way,” the release said.

The Colorado River rapids in Garfield County will reach category four, advanced, and category five, expert, in the upcoming runoff, officials said. Water recreationists should wear proper life jackets and headgear, and check current river flows before entering the water.

“Hazards can change day-by-day, including debris and tree snags that can trap people underwater and puncture rafts,” said Colleen Pennington, Glenwood Canyon manager for the White River National Forest.

Swift, strong currents and frigid water temperatures can create dangerous situations even for whitewater experts and strong swimmers.


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