Outdoors blog

Another rafter dies on Lochsa River

RIVER RUNNING -- The Idaho County sheriff's office says a Missoula man died Wednesday in a rafting accident on the Lochsa River in north-central Idaho, according to the Lewiston Tribune.

Keegan Seth Ginther, 29, died after three or four people had been thrown from a raft around 2:30 p.m. CPR was performed on the river.

The accident reportedly happened in Lochsa Falls Rapid near milepost 112.5 off U.S. Highway 12.

The investigation revealed that Ginther was rafting with four friends from Missoula when the raft flipped in the Lochsa Falls Rapids and spilled all the occupants into the water.  Ginther was unable to get to shore and was swept downriver.  One of the rafters,  Bradley Applegate, 30, was able to get to shore and flagged down a passing vehicle to transport him down river where he pulled Ginther from the water. An EMT started CPR, the report said. 

All parties in the raft were wearing life jackets. 

This is the second drowning in the Lochsa this season and the third drowning in Idaho County in the past seven weeks. 

In addition to Wednesday's drowning, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, resident Randy Eroen drowned while kayaking on the Lochsa River May 28, and on May 11, Jerry Nelson of Kamiah drowned in Lolo Creek while trying to save his dog.

The river was running at about 15,000 cubic feet per second on Wednesday - high for this time of year, but not an unusual flow for the early rafting season.

The Lochsa is well-known for its continuous string of class III and IV rapids.

Read on for the reaction of a Lochsa rafting outfitter as quoted in a Missoulian online report.


From the Missoulian:

The Lochsa fatalities are puzzling for Justin Walsh of Bearpaw River Expeditions, who said up until a month ago, there hadn't been a death on the Lochsa River in 15 years.

"Frankly, I'm shocked we've had two fatalities on the Lochsa this year when there's been zero in years past," Walsh said.
 
Bearpaw River Expeditions is a white-water rafting guide company that solely operates on the Lochsa River, and Walsh said conditions aren't more dangerous this year than in previous years.
 
Unlike other rivers in western Montana and northern Idaho, the Lochsa River hasn't experienced any unprecedented flood waters in the past month, Walsh said, so although the river is six feet at the Lowell Bridge - higher than it typically would this time of year - "six feet isn't that unusually high of a level," he said.
 
The Lochsa River was running at about 15,000 cubic feet per second on Wednesday, also high for this time of year, but nothing particularly unusual for those familiar with the Lochsa, Walsh said.
 
"What we've had is a slow and gradual run off where the water has stayed consistently at steady flows," he said. "Those flows are fine for rafting guides and river savvy people."
 
Rafts flipping over also aren't an unusual event for rafters on the river.
 
"For a lot of our customers that's part of the thrill - taking the swim and having the raft flip over," he said. "That's the Lochsa ... rafts do flip over."
 
Although he said white-water rafting is less dangerous than driving a car - citing a study by American Whitewater in 2006 that also found rafting is less dangerous than climbing and scuba diving - rafters should still be aware of the risks.
 
"The Lochsa is a big white-water river and the types that run the river are the adrenaline junkies," he said. "There are risks, but we accept those risks."



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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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