Wawona swift water rescue

Carmen GeorgeMay 1, 2013 

What started as a leisurely float trip down the Merced River in Wawona Friday afternoon soon turned dangerous for two Southern California women in their early to mid 20s.

The women, whose names were not available, entered an inflatable raft into the river somewhere near the Wawona Campground, and made it about a quarter mile down the river before their raft popped. They managed to make their way to a rock island in the center of the river, and then called for help.

"One good decision they made was to call for help, and not try to cross the river," said Wawona District Ranger Eric Scott, who performed a swift water rescue procedure to get them across safely. "Where they first put their raft in, the water looked calm, but just downstream it got rough quickly ... Spring runoff makes it very dangerous and difficult to attempt that (floating the river), even by the most highly experienced individuals."

To bring the women to shore safely across the swift current, Scott threw a rope to them on the island, about 30 feet from shore. Once the rope was secured, he secured it to himself and waded and swam across the river, about six feet deep in that section. He brought the women life jackets and then took each across the river separately. The women received no injuries.

Yosemite National Park rangers that also assisted included Heidi Schlichting, Ben Grodjesk, Ian Rippetoe, James Boyle and Helen George.

"If people want to engage in that kind of activity (floating the river), they should contact us first to make sure it's a safe location with safe conditions to do so," Scott said. "Check the park website and park paper for relevant safety information."

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