Why would someone even ask this question? I can’t tell you the number of times I have meet people, really wonderful people, and when they hear that I work on the river along their local tubing run, they tell me stories like these, proud with the feeling that they are “doing their part” to keep the rivers safe and enjoyable. Or, here is another story someone may be able to relate to, “I was thrown from a raft on a trip with some friends, got stuck under the raft then the river just kept pushing me under and I almost drowned”. Each year fatalities happen on seemingly harmless sections of water. Why is this, and how can it be avoided? Proper knowledge! Folks just aren’t aware of the forces of the river or how to protect themselves. I’m sure it totally makes sense and these individuals were taught that these types of actions were best, without even realizing how dangerous they are.
Why is it a horrible idea? Here’s the problem: When you tie something, like a tube, cooler or child to yourself; you create a hazard. If you and the object get separated, it’s like being tied to an anchor. Even if the object floats (like a tube) once the rope catches something, such as a rock or strainer (logs or downed trees along the side of the river where water passes through but other things don’t) the power of the water, on the now stuck object on either end of the rope, acts like an anchor. The amount of water in rivers is measured in Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS), and just one CFS weighs 62.4 pounds. The average flow on the Sandy River is 2,300 CFS. That’s a lot of force to deal with!!!
Here’s the solution. Get the knowledge and experience! There are water safety classes you can take with local agencies and outfitters. They will cover things like how to swim and wade in the river to prevent foot entrapments; how to rescue yourself and others from swift current, when to use ropes and when not to use ropes; what makes the different features on the river, how to identify them, how to navigate them and how to get out of them; and what a strainer is and how to swim out of one.
If you just do an internet search on inner tube accidents and fatalities, you will be presented with countless stories and even some video. The lower sections of the Sandy and Clackamas River are super fun to explore on tubes, paddle boards and along the riverside, as many locals know! Here in Clackamas County, OR, having trained River Guards has drastically decreased the incidents at the popular swimming spots. We can take it one step farther and learn these skills ourselves to keep rivers fun, safe and enjoyable for our friends and families… not to mention practicing the skills can be pretty thrilling and build on water confidence!
For more information, or to find out about River Safety Courses on and near the Sandy River, you can call Stout Creek Outfitters at 503-583-5443 or check out Stoutcreekoutfitters.com.