My Embarrassing Near-Death Experience on the Yellowstone River
In the past, I've written a lot about my passion for floating rivers in Montana. I have been paddling some sort of boat or raft for over 20 years, but during the pandemic, I used it as an effective way to social distance.
Last summer, I convinced my friend, Cam to buy a pontoon boat. We spent a lot of time on the Yellowstone River last summer, and we've already got a couple of floats in this year.
On Saturday, July 3, my friend and I decided to float a section of the Yellowstone River that we hadn't done before. We put in at Gardiner, at the first river access outside of the park. The section of the river between Gardiner and Yankee Jim Canyon is known to have some fairly challenging rapids.
As I said, I have quite a bit of experience when it comes to rowing a boat. I have had some scary experiences, but nothing like I experienced on Saturday.
The day started out great. We put our boats in the water around 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning. When you launch in Gardiner, there's a nice set of rapids right as you enter the river.
My friend and I always take our fishing rods with us, and fish sections of the river along our float. Suddenly, my friend yells "Fish on!"
I turned around to watch him net the fish when I heard a rumble over my right shoulder. I turned around just in time to see a huge rapid. I didn't have time to get in a position to take it correctly, and went over it sideways. That was a huge mistake. I was instantly thrown from my boat and spun and swirled around in the rapids. My raft has capsized, and all of my belonging were scattered in the river. Thankfully, I was wearing a lifejacket.
I was able to crawl on top of my capsized boat and make my way to the shore about 200 yards down. I later found out that the name of the rapid that capsized me was "The Sleeping Giant", and now I know it is appropriately named.
For me, the experience was not only scary, but it was pretty embarrassing. I have put many miles on various rivers, and have never flipped my boat. If I had been paying attention, it could have been prevented. I was distracted and paid the price. Aside from losing a fishing rod and reel, I didn't lose anything.
It's just a reminder that regardless of how much you think you're prepared, nature can have other plans. The Yellowstone River is beautiful, but it can also be extremely dangerous. The river has claimed the lives of many throughout the years.
I'm a little bruised up and pretty sore, but thankful to be alive.