Stranded Local Rafters Rescue Themselves

mcso Mendocino County Sheriff's Office MCSOPress release from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office:

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.



  • I think this is the first report I’ve ever read where rafters/hikers/outdoor types were self-sufficient and capable enough to extricate themselves from otherwise dangerous and extenuating circumstances.

    Right on, carry on, be prepared and stay calm.

    • That’s because most outdoorsmen that are self-sufficient don’t end up needing help,because they’re self-sufficient and prepared;<)

      • The same with all safe gun handlers, motorcycle riders, truck drivers, ocean divers, equestrians, uber users, pot growers, alcohol drinking, cigarette smoking .. the news would be millions of pages thick in order to capture all the safe handling self sufficient well trained and perhaps just lucky reports.
        Shame they don’t though.

    • Because all the 1000’s of other times they had been Prepared for emergencies and had fixed the problem ,did self rescue and didn’t need the help 😆

  • With all the waters so high why temp fate?I bet that water was cold.glad they took extra cloths etc.glad everyone is ok.

  • Rafting in January?

  • The river is only flowing at 2000CFSat Leggett. That is about the perfect level for drift boat fishing.
    When the river gets much lower, it is actually a lot more dangerous. The river is narrow up there, more water makes it easier to maneuver.In many places, it is hard to get both oars in the water without at at least one oar hitting the bank.
    I use my 16′ CAT from Branscomb to Big Bend and usually my drift boat from Big Bend Down.
    Regardless, it is a challenging float until you get below Resting Oak, below Piercy.
    I have floated from below Branscomb to Leggett over 100 times in the last 30 years.

  • Stormy do you get in your car every day? If you got into an accident that landed you upside down in the river is that the attitude that you wish all to have?

  • That’s a knarly section of river. Steep canyon, large boulders/rapids/falls and extremely remote. Good shit.

  • How was the water fall below the hermitage? So sketchy.

  • You all should go to you tube and search “creature craft” that is some serious rafting!

  • I was at Angelo Reserve with a group when the rafters came by. We got a great visit and talk from Dr. Joshua Strange while he was leading this trip on the river. When I originally heard that kayakers were making their way down the South Fork from the Branscomb area, I immediately said, “I hope they’re ready because this is a serious run with serious flow right now!” When their group arrived where we were I observed that ALL of them had helmets and drysuits. This group was extremely well prepared – I’d definitely characterize it as a professionally guided trip.

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