Dolores County Search and Rescue again responded to unprepared tubers in distress on the Dolores River in Ponderosa Gorge.
On July 18, three nonresident adults in their 50s set out from Bradfield Bridge Recreation Area at 11 a.m., as the river was flowed at the low rate of 79 cubic feet per second.
They never arrived at the Dove Creek Pumping Station 19 miles downriver, reported Dolores County SAR Capt. Keith Keesling.
On the morning of July 19, the search team was deployed to begin a looking for the missing party after concerned family members called the Dolores County Sheriff’s Office for help.
The Ponderosa Gorge averages 1,100 feet deep with no way to hike out.
Search teams on ATVs went to the Dolores River Overlook to scan with binoculars and search with a drone but had no luck. They returned to headquarters for the rescue boat and gear for a possible overnight excursion.
Other team members were positioned near power lines to facilitate communications.
When a Flight for Life helicopter became available, Dolores County Sheriff Don Wilson requested its assistance. At this point, the tubers had been missing for 25 hours.
The rescue helicopter found the stranded party on a second flyover of the river, then landed and picked them up, taking two trips. The tubers were only wearing shorts and T-shirts, had no outdoor gear and had run out of water and food.
They were exhausted and dehydrated after their unplanned overnight stay on the river lasted almost 30 hours, Keesling said. All were medically cleared.
Rescuers involved included Keesling, Jeremy Lawrence, Ryan Delano, Kiren Huskey, Rachelle King, Karen Kibel and Megan Daves.
On June 16, a Flight for Life helicopter locating six Dolores County youths who were missing on the Lower Dolores River.
The group had attempted to float the same Ponderosa Gorge section of the river on inner tubes the previous day from Bradfield Bridge. They had lashed the tubes together, and some of the youths were not wearing life jackets.
At the time, the section of river was running at a high flow of 3,400 cubic feet per second.
The teenagers ran into trouble when they lost a few of their inner tubes in a rapid about 9 miles into the trip. After walking along shore, they came upon “a nice family” that gave them food and invited them to stay overnight at their camp. Wilson called in a rescue helicopter, and the youths were extracted by a Flight for Life helicopter that landed on the edge of the beach, its tail jutting out over the river. Three flights were required to bring out all six people.
After two cases of stranded tubers, during high and low flows, Dolores County Search and Rescue advised caution.
“No more tubing please. The river is now too low,” Keesling said.