JORDAN VALLEY — A 76-year-old man who got separated from his group while floating the upper section of the Owyhee River last week ended up being OK.
According to Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe, the area where the search-and-rescue operation took place for the man was south of Jordan Valley and not easily accessible by land. Because of this, the Sheriff’s Office called in the U.S. National Guard, which assisted with a helicopter in searching for the man.
Wolfe said that a group of three males had been floating the river on their inflatable kayaks last Thursday, adding that the elderly man hadn’t been feeling well.
They were “roping” their kayaks around a rapid, Wolfe explained, with the man in his mid-70s being the first to go and the plan for him to wait downstream while the other floaters got around the rapid.
“So the other two got out, got back on the river, floated and did not find their partner,” Wolfe said.
As nightfall started to happen, the pair got off the river to camp. The next morning they floated out to Three Forks on the Owyhee, were their vehicle was waiting. They drove to the top of the canyon where they had cell reception to call their friend in as a missing person.
The National Guard members found the man floating, alive, down the river, Wolfe said.
Apparently, what happened the night before was the man went downstream and pulled into an eddy that had willows around him.
“He actually fell asleep while he was waiting,” Wolfe said.
And his friends, not seeing him, floated right by.
Wolfe cautioned that in cases such as this, the person moving ahead on the river leave something visible if stopping, so that other members of their party might see them more easily.