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A rafting misadventure

by By Larry Wilson
| August 17, 2022 7:35 AM

Almost all of us enjoy the great outdoors of Montana. Most of us also realize that there can be danger out there. This is especially true for serious mountain climbers, snowmobilers, swiftwater adventurers and others. Unfortunately, there are always people who violate elementary safety rules and can get into real trouble and can even sometimes die.

We had a case of that recently on the North Fork which, luckily, turned out well but could have just as easily been a tragedy.

A woman in her 50s who had planned a four-day float from the border with her husband was disappointed when her husband couldn’t get the time off and had to work. That is when she made a big mistake which could have caused her death.

She decided to go alone. Then she compounded her mistake. She planned to float in a borrowed raft with oars – but she did not know how to row.

You can guess what happened! Her raft hit a log on the bank and she was thrown into the river and came up under the boat which was caught on the log. She managed, somehow, to get out of the water but lacked the strength to pull the boat up on the shore. I am sure that at this point – only a short time into her planned trip she was scared and aware that this was no longer fun. In fact it was downright dangerous.

But her good luck continued. Another float group saw her plight and stopped to help. This group pulled her boat and gear on the bank. Even better, they had a satellite phone and she asked them to call her husband and have him meet her at Polebridge. Then the other floaters left.

The lady was then on the river bank but much closer to the border than Polebridge. Not familiar with the area she did know that the North Fork Road was west of her location. She climbed the steep bank to her west and bushwhacked to the road. North Fork residents picked her up and brought her to my house.

By this time it was getting dark – hours after the call went out to her husband. Luckily, she spotted their car going north when we were just south of Red Meadow Creek. We turned around and got him stopped at Red Meadow Creek and they were reunited. The next morning her husband and son recovered the boat and gear so there was no injury, no loss of life, and even all the gear was rescued.

Of course, her biggest mistake was venturing out on this great adventure alone. This was compounded by not having the ability to operate the boat. She could have easily died floating what I call the granny river and would not even have been reported missing for several days. Instead of a great adventure she was badly frightened. I think she has learned a valuable lesson and so have others. I hope she comes back and does it right.

What do you think?

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