The Crooked River (Bend, Oregon) at high water is more rare than Bigfoot sightings in the rafting world. Boaters carefully watch the reservoir fill up during the winter and wait for the storms to align. In 2017 my friends and I were preparing for a rafting trip to Peru and so we were doing our best to get some big water experience in. We ran two rafts with stern frames and bow paddlers and made sure to bring the high float NRS PFDs. The level was around 3600 cubic feet per second and each rapid got bigger and bigger as we crashed downstream with driftwood logs floating by.
We scout number five “No Name,” the entire current sweeping down into a crashing hole with 13 feet of foam at the peak! I know the height of the pile because that’s how long my raft is. Guard rocks on the right shore. Refracting laterals push all the brown water into this feature, but we hope to break right and miss the meat of it. I go second and the boat in front of me somehow hits dead center, climbs the wall of water perfectly strait, and endo flips over backward, feet flying in the air. “Dig hard” I yell to my paddlers and aim right, pushing downstream to aid in the rescue. We quarter the lateral, it surfs us center and I know we won’t miss the hole. “Everyone highside forward!” Whitewater hits me in the face and I see sky up at the bow of the boat, thinking “we’re gonna make it.” My paddlers fall backward and the raft’s stern sweeps out from under me, the boat shooting up, flying through the air, and landing upside down.
I hang onto the perimeter line as the boat runs the rest of the long rapid, waterboarding me through hole after hole. I try to climb onto the bottom in the tailwaves but the boat starts raking over lava rocks and kayakers swarm around yelling “get away from the raft, rocks ahead!” I swim for shore and climb through the thorn bushes, watching my boat go around the corner downstream. I can see my boyfriend flipping his raft over and my friends have all made it to shore. We run down the bank, climb 6 people into one raft, break an oar leaving the eddy fence, and paddle downstream hard to find that some lovely Australian kayakers have gotten my raft to shore and tied it up for me. Thanks whoever you were! The day that we all joined the Crooked River Swim Team was the perfect ego bashing, it definitely prepared us for the next high water adventures. Crooked River 3.18.2017