Hazardous ‘hole’ in Glenwood Springs’ Whitewater Park?
Ryan Summerlin September 3, 2013
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — There’s a “hole” in the Colorado River as it passes town, and some say it is a hazard to floaters and boaters, particularly following an incident last Saturday when a woman fell into the hole and had to be rescued by a pair of kayakers.
The hole, meaning a recirculating section of a river that forms behind boulders and other obstructions, has developed at the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park, where observers say there should be more signs or other cautionary devices to keep people safe.
The 44-year-old woman who fell in on Saturday apparently was in a raft or a small, two-person “Duckie,” when the boat went into what is known to be a deep, hydraulic hole in the Whitewater Park, according to police records.
One of the women was ejected from the hole immediately, but the other woman hung onto the boat and was held in the hole for some time before being pulled out by a kayaker and dragged to shore.
“The feature changes. In May, it’s a great feature. … Experienced boaters can handle it. It’s some of the private inexperienced boaters that get stuck.” John Mount, kayaker
Lt. Bill Kimminau of the Glenwood Springs Police Department said there is not a comprehensive report on the incident, because “it was basically just a dispatch call” that came in at 6:40 p.m., and the police were assisting Glenwood Springs fire and rescue personnel.
“She was out of the water by the time our guys got there,” he said.
The kayaker who had helped get the woman out of the water was administering CPR when rescue personnel arrived. The rescue workers checked the woman for injuries and took her to Valley View Hospital, where she was treated and released fairly quickly, Kimminau said.
Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson confirmed that an ambulance crew assisted the woman, whose name was not released.
He said the “water feature,” the official name for the hole, is designed to eject people downstream to prevent boaters and swimmers from getting trapped.
But boats, he said, are lighter when empty and more prone to “surfing” the hole and the wave it forms, and if a person hangs onto the rope or a handle of the boat that person stands a chance of being held in the hole with the boat.
John Mount of Glenwood Springs, a kayaker who spends considerable time at the Whitewater Park, said he was in the vicinity shortly after the woman was pulled from the water and talked to one of her rescuers.
That rescuer, Mount said, found the woman semiconscious but maintaining a tight grip on the boat until the moment she lost consciousness, at which point her rescuer was able to pull her away.
Mount stressed that he is a fan of the whitewater park, and that the hole typically is not dangerous.
“The feature changes,” he said. “In May, it’s a great feature.” But after peak runoff, he said, the water level drops and the hole becomes hazardous.
“Experienced boaters can handle it,” he said. “It’s some of the private inexperienced boaters that get stuck.”
Mount said the rescuer described the woman as being “chundered” by the hydraulics of the hold, meaning she was being held underwater, buffeted and rolled by the wave action.
He feels that during this part of the season, authorities should add to the existing signs that urge boaters to go “river right,” or toward the northern bank, and avoid going “river left,” which leads to the hole.
“The city is looking into it,” said Tillotson.