Stranded Local Rafters Rescue Themselves
On 01/15/2017 around 11:06 PM the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office received a report of 3 stranded river rafters [Riley Barrett, age 32 from Burnt Ranch, Joshua Strange, approximately 40 years old of Hoopa, and Aaron David, approximately 30 years of age, Arcata CA] on the South Fork of the Eel River, approximately 2 miles north of the confluence with Ten Mile Creek, northwest of Laytonville CA. Earlier that day a group of 15 rafters from Humboldt County launched a trip into the headwaters of the South Fork of the Eel River on Wilderness Lodge Road, west of Branscomb CA. Just after 2:00 PM the largest raft (15 feet long) became lodged (wrapped) on a large boulder in the river. The force of the water kept the raft pinned against the boulder. The rafters were able to climb out of the raft and onto the rock where they were successful in reaching the shore. The group spent approximately 2 hours trying to free the raft but were unsuccessful.
Around 4:00 PM a decision was made for three of the rafters to stay at the location, as there was not enough room in other rafts, while the rest of the group continued on, so they could get help. The river bottom, at this location, was too steep to climb out of safely so the group contacted the Sheriff’s Office. Due to the late hour, and the potential danger of an attempted night rescue, a rescue was postponed until daylight. It was reported the three rafters had adequate clothing and supplies to survive the night on the river and none of them were reported to be injured.
On the morning of 01/16/2017 the Mendocino County Cal FIRE Unit was contacted for an agency assistance request to utilize Helicopter 101 to attempt a hoist rescue. Around 10:30 AM the fog had cleared enough to launch a rescue attempt. Around 10:50 AM, prior to the arrival of the Helicopter at the incident site, the Sheriff’s Office received word the three rafters had freed their raft and had successfully floated the river to their extrication point, The Big Bend Lodge just south of Leggett. The rafters were in good health and the group, rejoined, was headed back to Humboldt County.
The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Cal FIRE Mendocino Unit and the California Office of Emergency Services for their assistance on this incident.