Lower Sibun Rapids
Lower Sibun Rapids

We all slept lightly because of the rain. Even though we had camped on the rocky shoreline, we had prepared everything in case the river decided to flood during the night. Packs were packed and placed along side a trail cut up the hillside. Kayaks were tied off with long lines near the trail up the hillside.

We talked about going back up river in the morning to try and shoot pictures of the canyon in daylight, but the rain and fear of a flood forced us to pack up and head downstream. We still had far to go and plenty more rapids to shoot, and the thought of doing that in a flood was a great motivator to keep moving.


“...at one point, Tony jumped out of the kayak to try and prevent it from going down the rapids. But he lost his footing and the kayak with Ed in front was sucked into the rapids....”

Even though the river rose only one half inch during the night, the increased flow made a huge difference in how the rapids were dealt with. The force of the water had increased, and the danger of being sucked into the rapids without any control was a real problem.

Shooting Rapids
Jim and Marguerite attempt to shoot a rapids

Often we gingerly approached a rapids from the side, and got out to look it over. At one point, Ed and Tony misjudged the force of the water and started to get pulled down the shoot. Tony jumped out to try and hold the kayak back, but lost his footing. The kayak with Ed in front were sucked down, with Tony behind. Ed and the kayak fared OK other then being turned around. Tony wasn’t so lucky. His leg smashed against a rock, which we later found out tore ligaments in the right knee.

We often would use the long lines on front and the rear of the kayaks to line the kayaks through the rapids. Then we would climb over the river banks and meet the kayaks below the rapids. it was important to keep hold of the lines or the kayak could easily get away. One time the trailing line got away from us. Fortunately, the line hung up in the rock near the base of the rapids. Ed and Tony repeatedly tried to free the line without luck. Then Tony attempted to pull himself up the line to try and dislodge it from the rocks. The closer he got to the rapids, the stronger was the undertow. At one point, the undertow was so strong that it sucked Tony under and held him there. Fortunately he still had hold of the line and was able to pull himself out. Eventually they had to cut the line to free it.


“...while Ed secured his equipment in the front of the kayak, the river rose 1 inch...”

At one point, a major tributary entered the Sibun. Jim was obviously agitated as we slowly made our way to the confluence. Jim remembered this spot as a small feeder stream on previous trips. Now it was a muddy raging torrent. Once past this spot, there would be no turning back for shelter. We checked the surrounding hills for a place of refuge...but saw nothing but steep hillsides. The river might not be rising, but we had no frame of reference to measure, and no one wanted to stop.

The Flood catches us
The Flood Catches the Expedition

The rapids were becoming more and more dangerous, and the water was now undrinkable because of the heavy load of silt. It was also getting difficult to see rocks and to read the rapids, and the flow of the water was powerful and the level of the river rising, covering the once easily seen rocks. We were also flipping the kayaks more often while shooting the rapids. Our helmets and life jackets more then once protected us from possible injury.

Finally, around 3:00pm, Jim and Marguerite took a major rapids and flipped at the bottom. Ed and Tony decided to give it a try without lining, but first wanted to secure the equipment a little better incase of a flip. While Ed secured his collecting equipment in front, we could barely hear Marguerite screaming over the roar of the rapids “you’re not going to make it!”. Sure enough, looking at a point on the opposite side of the river, we watched the river rise one inch in less then a minute.

We quickly pushed off and shot the rapids without flipping, then quickly pulled over to a pebbly beach below the rapids. Pulling the kayaks high, we cut a trail up the hillside, and prepared to haul everything up with the rising water. The river continued to rise 5 feet in less then 20 minutes. The once calm, beautiful river had turned into an ugly brown torrent of a flood.
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