Alaska’s Kenai River Canyon is a perfect spot for adventure—an epic run of turquoise water churning past rocky cliffs and pristine boreal forest. But it’s easy for inexperienced paddlers to get in over their head, as a kayaking couple found to their chagrin over July 4th weekend. Luckily, alert hikers and a group of river anglers from Codepak Campers came to their rescue, working together to prevent a tragic outcome. Watch the pulse-pounding rescue footage above and learn from their mistakes.
Anglers Rescue Kayakers on Alaska’s Kenai River
The day started out pleasantly enough for the anglers, but soon took a turn for the dramatic. A pair of paddlers were in trouble ahead of them on the river. As the rescuers relate,
“The two capsized [their] small boat on the first wave entering the canyon. Floating down river, they hung to the boat for safety, yelling at people [who] were fishing that they badly needed help.
As we floated into the refuge, we were flagged down and told that the boaters needed help. Knowing what danger they were in, we made the call to stop fishing and track down the capsized couple. As the hikers took off for cell phone service, we continued to float down the very cold river.”
Finding the couple huddled against a cliff face without camping gear or dry clothing, the group convinced them to get back in the water and aim for a rendezvous. Instead, the lake kayak capsized again and was pulled back into the raging current. The rescuers chased the pair down in their raft. “Catching up with them minutes later, we wrestle[d] the two into the boat.”
Thankfully this story has a happy ending, but it was no sure thing. “When the trooper talked to us on Skilak lake,” the rescuers report, “he said that they thought they were going to be finding bodies.”
Takeaways from a Kenai River Rescue
To experience the Kenai River for yourself, book your trip with an experienced guide or tour operator and brush up on your skills with a whitewater paddling course. Know the conditions you’ll encounter ahead of time and always paddle a kayak that’s properly rated for them. Wear appropriate apparel for cold water immersion—and always a PFD. As for the rescuers, commenter Anthony Leoni correctly notes, “a couple of throw bags would have been handy. Also it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a swift water rescue class.”
Warning: This video contains language that some viewers may find offensive.