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As waters rise, some guidelines for increased river safety
Pros like the U.S. Men's National rafting team, above, can handle class IV water like Dowd Chute, but they do so with a lot of experience, equipment, and planning behind them.
Photo by Dan Davis

As waters rise, some guidelines for increased river safety

Notes from a meeting with Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy
By "Louie" 

June 21, 2008 —  Rivers are reaching their peak right now, which has led the sheriff to consider closing the rivers. In theory, he can close the river to rafts and commercial outfitters, but not to kayaks and whitewater canoes – something I know first-hand because Rick Winkeller and I were arrested in 1979 for kayaking a "closed" river (the Eagle).

But I had done my research beforehand. I knew there was an exception for kayaks and whitewater canoes in the Colorado statute, and myself and Rick took our case all the way to the Colorado State Supreme Court. In 1982 we won our case, and the sheriff, to this day, cannot close the river to us.

I’ll tell that story in my next entry, but in the meantime there are a few things I recently brought to a meeting with Eagle County Sheriff Joy Hoy June 10 to talk to him about river closures and river safety.

We had a constructive meeting and discussion, and I gave him a copy of a few ideas I have on the subject, which I've posted below.

Please use the comment function at the end of this story to add your own thoughts and ideas, too.

Some Guidelines for Increased River Safety

- Life Jackets (personal flotation devices) MANDATORY
- Thermal protection and helmets HIGHLY recommended
- Understand your own limitations as well as the limitations of your watercraft
- Employ the “buddy” system in more difficult waters
- Understand the implications of river ratings using the international scale (1-6), river gauges, and cubic-feet-per-second
- Understand other factors of reading water, such as water temperature, and if the water is continuous or pool drop
- Scout the river sections you are going to run if you are unfamiliar with them

Other notes:
- The two river features that have been flipping rafts, ironically, are either man-made or man-altered.
- Kayaks have the potential to “roll up,” rafts do not

Any other suggestions from the boating community are welcome.



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