Big Water on the Bruneau

All Glory to Whomever Stays Upright

By Ray Brooks

I barely managed to catch an eddy, slammed the back of my raft’s right pontoon into the rock on which my wife Dorita was perched, and screamed, “Jump on if you can.”

She jumped strongly, landing chest-first on a fairly soft bag. OK, now I have to get back out into the current without hitting any rocks, I thought. As I started pulling my way back into the raging red torrent of the Bruneau River, the raft took off like a porpoise. Before I was able to work my way uphill to the center of the torrent, the pontoon on the right side hit a large rock. The impact of the collision launched Dorita and me off the raft. I flew out of the boat like Superman, grabbing an oarlock as my head went into the river.

Before all this happened, there was a time when the trip seemed like a good idea. Dorita’s seventy-year-old father, Ed, wanted to go down the river, and Dorita and I had previously rafted the forty-mile-long Class IV stretch, considering it a great experience. Class IV requires practiced skills, Class V is for experts, and almost nobody ever attempts Class VI rapids. But Ed had done various whitewater day trips with us. No problem.

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