I Observed a sunk drift boat (blue fiberglass) just below Sheep Creek rapid this weekend (march 5), I guess the guys sunk it the day before (March 4) we were there. To those that may have seen us go by on the wallowa (we were in the blue aluminum koffler not the blue fiberglass boat which sunk). We recovered a bunch of their stuff, phone number on a bag, left a message, no call back yet, including an operational Ruger M77 Mark II .223.
The guy who sunk his boat called me back last night. They are not from the area and this was their first time on the river. They launched from Palmer Junction on the Grande Ronde not from minam
Quite a long story, short version: they think the plug came out and they started taking on water in Sheep Creek rapid, sluggish maneuvering then broadside and flipped on a boulder, I think the anchor also let loose, neither had life jackets and both guys nearly drowned, one had a battle with entrapment with the anchor rope, one made it to the left side of the bank and the other guy on the opposite side. They hiked out to palmer junction.
The guy was pretty humble about his mistakes when I spoke at length with him. They learned a very significant lesson without having to pay the ultimate price.
Lessons they should have learned from this experience (and lessons for everyone to keep in mind):
1. Always wear a PFD
2. Have your boat and all gear in proper working order (i.e. plug etc).
3. Know how to high side and practice to the extent that the move is automatic when required
4. Have a very sharp river knife on your person to cut the anchor rope in the event of it getting snagged and or you getting entrapped
5. Winter trips leave even less margin for error when temps are cold and hypothermia/freezing to death increase 100 fold.
6. Go with another boat if it is your first time on a multi day trip to the middle of no where and you aren’t an expert rower/survival expert.