The summer after my freshman year of high school my parents, my cousin Rance and I were all headed to Salida, Colorado for vacation. We were going to go river rafting the next day and I was worried. This was the first year we were going to raft a level five section of the Arkansas River which is the highest level of difficulty that commercial rafting companies can take groups down. This was our 9thrafting trip but our first level 5 trip.
We woke up early and drove to Buena Vista to meet with our guide from Buffalo Joe’s rafting company. We signed the waiver stating we know we could die and we know it is dangerous; but I never gave any thought to it since the river had always been a place of enjoyment.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
After arriving at the river we got the usual safety speech. The speech always scares me because they talk about all the ways you can drown in the river, but once I am actually there I forget the danger and just have fun. This trip was different thanks to the rapid called Frog Rock.
Rapids are generally named for what features in the landscape resemble. As we approached the rapid called Frog Rock our guide didn’t tell us how it got its name but he did tell us the reason we were not going to raft through it. The only way through the rapid is a basic level two move to avoid the boulder. Failure to execute the move means death. The Frog Rock boulder was undercut so that water would rush over top of it leaving an opening at the base of the rock where water would rush back in to fill. If you fell out during this rapid you would be pulled underneath the rock, unable to get out and drown. Our guide then told us about a group of guides from another rafting company. About two weeks before our rafting trip they decided that they could navigate around Frog Rock because of their experience. They didn’t maneuver the rock correctly and a 22 year old female guide was thrown out, pulled beneath the rock and died. Her body was still in the river during our rafting trip. The state authorities had not been able to retrieve it due to the continued height and speed of the river. Before we got to Frog Rock our guide pulled up to the bank, we all got out and walked through the forest and river bank while our guide navigated the rapid alone.
At the end of our trip there was a man-made rapid that our guide was going to take us surfing on. He warned us that the risk of falling out was pretty high. He gave us the option to stand on the bank but no one did. I had told the guide that I really didn’t want to fall out so he had me switch places with my cousin Rance. Once we were in the rapid our raft started to fill with water and the whole left side of our raft fell out. As I watched my parents and cousin disappear under the water and reappear fifty feet away in three seconds. That was the day I truly gained respect for the Arkansas River. The river has a mind of its own, you are at its mercy.
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