CPW’s AHRA responds after report of fatality on private kayak trip on Arkansas River

Colorado Parks and Wildlife rangers from the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area are investigating after a man died Tuesday evening during a private kayak trip down the Arkansas River north of Buena Vista.

Rangers responded to a call for help Tuesday evening after a three-boat private kayaking group reported an accident in the highly technical Class V section of the river below the Pine Creek access point.

Witnesses told CPW rangers one kayaker was navigating a rapid when his boat became trapped in a powerful churning rapid at the bottom of the Pine Creek Rapid. Eventually, the boat was flushed from the rapid and other members of his group pulled the man to shore where they attempted CPR on the victim.

The call for help came in to the Chaffee County dispatch center at 5:30 p.m. of a boating accident prompting an immediate response from multiple agencies including Chaffee County Fire, Chaffee County EMS, Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office and CPW’s AHRA.

Resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful and the man was pronounced deceased on scene by the Chaffee County Coroner.

“Our deepest condolences go out to the family and friends of the victim,” said Tom Waters, AHRA park manager. “This appears to be a tragic accident.”

He noted all three kayakers were experienced in challenging whitewater conditions and had appropriate equipment for this Class V section of whitewater. The river temperature was 53 degrees and the river was running high as the spring run-off from snowmelt is near its peak.

Waters urged the public to check conditions by calling the AHRA before entering the river and to consider using commercial rafting companies.


The AHRA is managed through a cooperative effort between the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Formed in 1989, this partnership allows agencies to provide visitors with recreation opportunities and care for significant natural resources of the upper Arkansas River valley.