White water attracts rafters, hides dangers

by: Frank Field Updated:

BLACK DIAMOND, Wash. —

Washington rivers were swollen with kayakers and white water rafters Saturday.

The area near Black Diamond was crowded as boats lined up to get rafts into the water Saturday morning.

But guides said it can be a dangerous river this time of year. 

Mountain runoff swells up the rivers and makes them fast. And guide Hudson Lymon said inexperienced rafters don’t always know how to look for obstacles beneath the water’s surface.  He calls hidden obstacles “sleepers.”

“Those can throw your boat for a spin. Bump it. Tip it, throw people out,” he said as he prepared to guide a raft through the Green River Gorge.  “It isn’t as easy as it looks from shore.”

Lymon has guided rafts for more than 20 years in all corners of the globe.  He said people who fall in are at risk because the water is so cold right now that there isn’t much time to rescue people before they gasp in water and drown or simply can’t move.

“That limits your ability to swim effectively even though you’d want to be able to swim aggressively to a calm spot or back to the raft,” he said.

The majority of people were seen wearing personal floatation devices, helmets and proper gear.

Mark Twining was among the boaters out to enjoy the warm weather and the Green River.  He said he never floats without a professional guide.

“You haven’t checked out the river, and they have,” Twining said.  “They’ve gone on the river. Every week is different. Every year is different.”

Above all, the experts said avoid alcohol because it contributes to poor decisions and prevents you from reacting if things go badly.

“You’re taking your life in your hands when you do that,” said Twining.