Now that both of our boys are married, they aren't all here at the same time very often, so when we learned that Justin and Kelsey would be stopping on their way to Utah (after working all summer in Louisiana and Texas) we decided to go rafting as a family down the Arkansas river which flows through the Royal Gorge, (which is only about an hour drive from our house).
We went through Raft Masters, and it was a perfect day for rafting... Clear skies, with a forecast of 91 degrees, and the river water was a cool 65 degrees.
It started out great, the rapids were rated between II's and IV's which is perfect for the beginners in our group and for those looking for a little more excitement. There were seven of us, so they split us up into two groups. Justin, Kelsey, and Sarah were in the first raft, and Randie, myself and Stephen and Danielle were in the other one.
It started out with three smaller (warmup) rapids, and of course I didn't have my foot wedged under the seat in front of me like I should have, we hit a wave just right, and I was in the water, luckily I grabbed the rope around the edge of the raft, and our guide was able to haul me back in pretty quickly. I hit a few boulders as we were pushed downstream, but I didn't hit them hard, so only minor bruising. After that wake up call, I was much more diligent about making sure I was positioned correctly.
Randie felt that it was important to follow her husbands example, and on the next set of rapids she went over the side, we were pretty much at the bottom of that set and she fell into a deeper pocket of water. She swam the short distance to the raft and I was able to pull her in on top of me.
We traversed the next few sets without much difficulty, and then we joined up with the rest of the rafts in our company before attempting "Sunshine Falls" According to our guide you had to approach it through an S-Curve, and then shoot through two large rocks as you went over the fall. We watched as the other four rafts went, and then Justin, Kelsey and Sarah's raft went just before us.
This is them approaching the fall.
Now they are going between the two large rocks, and starting over the fall.
The Fall was actually only about 3 or 4 feet tall, It was rated as a level IV rapid
It was pretty intense
So now it was our turn, Since all of the other rafts had traversed it safely I wasn't too concerned.
Here is the picture of us approaching the fall.
This is where things started to go horribly wrong... somehow as we went over the fall our raft was pushed sideways, and we got stuck in the back flow that was being created by the fall, it was dragging the raft back into the fall, and water was pouring into the raft, and was starting to capsize it. Matt our guide was phenomenal, and jumped to the side of the raft that was being pushed up, yelling at us to move to the high side so we didn't flip.
We were able to force the high side down, and in the process we were pushed out of the fall
In the turmoil Stephen was thrown out of the raft, and the force of the water pushed us past him.
About five feet past the falls (because we were sideways) we became jammed into the rocks.
Stephen was caught in the falls behind us, and we had no way of reaching him. Matt our guide yelled at Stephen to swim to the raft, but he couldn't break free from the back current, he had already gone under twice, as he went under the third time, our guide threw himself to the back of the raft, to unclip the throw bag, There was no question in anyone's mind that Stephen's life was in danger at this point. (The photographer on the shore said that the third time he went under he was down for 35 seconds.
Just as Matt got the throw bag unclipped, Stephen was able to break free from the current, and passed under our raft, coming up on the other side.
This is the last shot, showing us still trapped on the rock, watching Stephen go downstream.
For a terrifying 10 or 15 seconds I thought that I was going to watch my son die, and there was nothing I could do about it. The rafts below us were able to pull Stephen in, and two be safe, he and Randie, walked out with our guide, and Stephen was taken to the Emergency room for observation.
I am so grateful to a loving Heavenly Father, who saw fit to spare my sons life. He is doing fine, with only a few minor bumps and bruises, I don't know if he will be doing any white water rafting in the near future.
As for me, I think I'm going to stick with the Lazy River at the water park from now on. . That was enough excitement for me.