Kimberly Appelson’s body is still missing and presumed caught in an underwater sieve in Frog Rock Rapid on the Arkansas River here in Colorado. The Arkansas is a popular rafting destination that supports a healthy whitewater industry. Part of the appeal of whitewater is of course the risk, but how much risk is acceptable?
At least six deaths have occurred on the Arkansas in the last decade, with several high profile accidents caused by the sieve.
To find Appelson, it appears authorities may bring in heavy equipment to divert the river and complete the ongoing search. Apparently it wouldn’t take but a few touches with a large track-hoe bucket to eliminate the sieve, and sentiment seems to be building to do so.
But the dangerous Frog Rock sieve is a natural feature. In that sense, altering the river bed because of accidents would be like tearing the top off a mountain because people fell of. Or is a river different? Is rafting a business and activity of “perceived risk” that gets the adrenaline flowing but is really intended to be no more dangerous than sitting in your yard?
Interesting ethical question. Sort of along the lines of many other backcountry use dilemmas, as in “just because we can do it, should we?” Your thoughts, dear readers?
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.