The Innocuous River Hazard That Kills 40 People a Year
Deadly hydraulic hazards can form behind low head dams and small pour-overs
I went rafting with my family on Idaho's Salmon River, "The River of No Return." Owing to a quirk of river hydrology, it almost lived up to its name.
We ran several big rapids, and then an innocuous one threw me from the raft. I surfaced quickly. My family, on the far side of a minor pour-over, set the raft up for a rescue.
Suddenly, I was pulled underwater and tumbled around and around as if in a washing machine. I fought to get to the surface but was held under for what seemed like hours.
I was running out of air. Instead of fighting to go up, I swam down, where I was able to catch the river current. It kicked me out of the hole downstream.
I was rescued quickly and treated for shock and hypothermia. I was otherwise OK, but the experience still haunts me.
This article appeared in the March/April 2020 edition with the headline "River of No Return."