GOLDENDALE — The region’s fast-flowing, frigid rivers are making recreation risky, even for the experienced.
During the weekend, rescuers were called to the Klickitat and the Cle Elum rivers after accidents. Two men were safely picked up in the Cle Elum River after they were forced to abandon their fishing boat when it was swept into a logjam, but the search continues for an Oregon man whose raft capsized on the Klickitat River on Saturday afternoon.
This is the most dangerous season for on-water recreation, said Sgt. John Durand with the Yakima County Sheriff’s Department. Spring runoff is muddy, carries sticks and logs that can trap an unsuspecting swimmer and is so cold it’s quickly debilitating, he said.
“We definitely don’t look forward to this time of year,” Durand said. “Water in this Valley is dangerous.”The two men who capsized on the Klickitat River apparently had extensive rafting experience, said Sgt. Joe Riggers, a spokesman for the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office.
The two were northeast of Glenwood on a remote section of the river near the Yakima-Klickitat county line on Saturday afternoon when their raft overturned. One man was able to make his way to shore and call for help, but the other remains missing.
The missing man has been identified as Steve Revier, a 41-year-old from Hood River, said Sgt. Joe Riggers with the Klickitat County Sheriff’s office.
Riggers said it appeared that the two men were using proper safety equipment, but the river was flowing high and the water temperature was just below 50 degrees, he estimated, so conditions were challenging.
Search and rescue efforts started Saturday evening, but no sign of Revier had been found as of midday Monday. Riggers said about 15 rescuers were still searching.
A rescue mission Sunday on the Cle Elum River was more successful. The Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office rescued two men who became stranded after their fishing boat got trapped in a logjam and began to take on water.
Mark Stevenson and Mike Bower, both of Cle Elum, were able to get off their sinking boat and onto a rock bar, officials reported.
One man was able make it to shore, but the other could not because of the swift, deep water. When members of the sheriff’s swift water rescue team arrived with a jetboat, they were able to pick up both men, officials said.
The men made the right decision by getting out of the water and waiting for help, Durand said.
“It doesn’t take but a few minutes in that type of water for hypothermia to set in and cause you not to be able to get out of the water,” he said.
“As the weather warms up, people try to get out and cool off in the water, but by the time the cold sets in they are in trouble and it’s too late.”
Early this week, the Yakima River was about 51 degrees just south of Union Gap and in upper Kittitas County the water was still in the mid-40s.