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Thread: Copper river...

  1. #1
    Member akiceman25's Avatar
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    Default Copper river...

    Could any of you experiences hands tell me if this is true.... On a river such as the Copper river, if a person was to go in, even with a pfd, he/she would not be able to get out of the water. I hear stories that this particular river is so dangerous from the silt that it would just pull a person under....

    I find it hard to believe that even wearing a pfd a person could not survive. Silly question?......hope not!

  2. #2

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    well, let's assume you are *wearing* a pfd with the proper floatation for your weight.

    that being the case, your chances of living with a pfd are ENORMOUSLY higher than someone without a pfd.

    few people drown who are wearing a pfd, unless they get trapped in some obstacle—sweeper, rocks, re-circ water.

    in general, if you read the accounts of people having accidents on ANY river, the folks with the pfd's live, the folks without a pfd die.

    for the copper or the yukon or the kuskokwim or any large river, depending on what reach of it you are talking about, assuming you are wearing a pfd, and you get dumped, the greatest danger you will face will be hypothermia if you are unable to get to shore in a reasonable time.

    i remember years ago that a boat containing a number of adults and some kids were attemping to pull a log out that was stuck in the copper's river bottom, it was getting in the way of their dip-netting. they attached a line to the log and the boat; and tried pulling it out—heading upstream. they didn't have enough horsepower, so they turned around and tried the same routine headed downstream. the line went tight, the log didn't move, and the rear of the boat IMMEDIATELY, followed by the rest of the boat, went under water. all the adults, save one, died—no pfd's. all the kids lived—pfd's. the one adult who didn't die, happened to grab one of the motor covers as it floated by, evidently there was some foam for sound deadning in the cover. it provided enought floatation for the guy to keep from going under.

    pfd's, never go on the water without them.

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    If you silt up all your clothes it would add, what? 2-3 lbs? A legal adult PFD provides at least 16.5 lbs of flotation. The silt will not pull you under if you are wearing a PFD. This is just an old wives tale. But the Copper is very large and fast, with big eddies and whirlpools, so you still might not be able get out before loosing strength to hypothermia.

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    Default

    I have seen trees (30-40 foot trees) float in the canyon of the Copper River, they would be horizontal, then for some reason they would be sticking 10 feet out of the water verticle. There is some awesome power to the water in the Copper River, I would also call it deadly power PFD better than without one but if it can flip large trees around imagine what it can do with a 200lb guy with a PFD on.

  5. #5
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    Default copper river

    There is enough silt in the copper to weigh you down so the currents can pull you under, or a standing wave, or a whirlpoool. I wouldn't reccomend canoeing it unless you ad all party members are experienced.

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    Default Very Dangerous River

    I would say if you could talk to all the people that has lost loved ones on that river they would say don't try it. People have been lost to that river and never seen again!

  7. #7
    Member akiceman25's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    This is just an old wives tale.
    I appreciate all the replies fellas.

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    Lightbulb Guiding the Copper & Downriver Insights...

    Used to guide the Copper and its tributaries, and can tell you that the silt issues are in the form of sandstorms that often blow up river and get silt into everything (eyes, food, zippers, stoves, etc.) and that they can put a float trip behind schedule. Another major concern is the nasty entrapment potential of the glacial mud. The silt-laden river with regards to dragging a 'swimmer' down unaided by buoyancy or when wearing life-vest floatation is 100% myth.

    The bad accidents are a result of a very big, cold, powerful, and cloudy river were folks have gone into these situations unprepared and unexpectedly. Immersed in a big water situation without proper planning, suitable equipment, or others around to provide adequate, fast response.

    The few aspects that many folks might not prepare for on rivers like the Copper are:

    a.) Drastic and sudden fluctuation in flow due to its very location... having numerous influential tribs that include diverse weather systems at any given time.

    b.) Entrapment in glacial mud... very real danger, for most part scary and always sobering. Have a plan with equipment. Best always keep an eye out for yourself & others.

    c.) Floatation is one thing while exposure is a dillema all to its own... let's use a common example on the Copper --- Response time is the greatest single factor in a rescue situation on this big, swift river. Even if a swimmer is floating just fine wearing a PFD... distance, time and scope of the river is easy to underestimate. Take one would be worst case scenario here by trying to row down a person fallen overboard against a headwind that will not give your boat any headway. The swimmer's body packs along at current velocity, yet there you sit seamingly stationary. No matter how hard you hammer the oars you feel useless. Rapidly increasing distance between boat and swimmer exhibits a rescue effort gone bad with a swimmer out of sight in just minutes.

    d.) Glacier activity... Many folks do not assess the influences of the glaciers from afar that effect tributaries and the Copper. En route many people don't comprehend the Miles and Childs glacier's power and unpredictability.

    Is the Copper a super-dangerous river worthy of folklore? Today - No.

    BUT... Real accidents and disasters have occurred over the years and will likely continue for the future! Therefore, it makes good sense to do your research, plan ahead, have the proper gear that you're reasonably up to speed with, or go with knowledgeable, dependable services.

  9. #9
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    Lightbulb Guiding the Copper & Downriver Insights...

    Used to guide the Copper and its tributaries, and can tell you that the silt issues are in the form of sandstorms that often blow up river and get silt into everything (eyes, food, zippers, stoves, etc.) and that they can put a float trip behind schedule. Another major concern is the nasty entrapment potential of the glacial mud. The silt-laden river with regards to dragging a 'swimmer' down unaided by buoyancy or when wearing life-vest floatation is 100% myth.

    The bad accidents are a result of a very big, cold, powerful, and cloudy river were folks have gone into these situations unprepared and unexpectedly. Immersed in a big water situation without proper planning, suitable equipment, or others around to provide adequate, fast response.

    The few aspects that many folks might not prepare for on rivers like the Copper are:

    a.) Drastic and sudden fluctuation in flow due to its very location... having numerous influential tribs that include diverse weather systems at any given time.

    b.) Entrapment in glacial mud... very real danger, for most part scary and always sobering. Have a plan with equipment. Best always keep an eye out for yourself & others.

    c.) Floatation is one thing while exposure is a dillema all to its own... let's use a common example on the Copper --- Response time is the greatest single factor in a rescue situation on this big, swift river. Even if a swimmer is floating just fine wearing a PFD... distance, time and scope of the river is easy to underestimate. Take one would be worst case scenario here by trying to row down a person fallen overboard against a headwind that will not give your boat any headway. The swimmer's body packs along at current velocity, yet there you sit seamingly stationary. No matter how hard you hammer the oars you feel useless. Rapidly increasing distance between boat and swimmer exhibits a rescue effort gone bad with a swimmer out of sight in just minutes.

    d.) Glacier activity... Many folks do not assess the influences of the glaciers from afar that effect tributaries and the Copper. En route many people don't comprehend the Miles and Childs glacier's power and unpredictability.

    Is the Copper a super-dangerous river worthy of folklore? Today - No.

    BUT... Real accidents and disasters have occurred over the years and will likely continue for the future! Therefore, it makes good sense to do your research, plan ahead, have the proper gear that you're reasonably up to speed with, or go with knowledgeable, dependable services.

  10. #10
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    I took an inflatable kayak down the Copper once. First day out I realized that if I fell over (wearing a Drysuit and PFD), the nearly constant wind would blow the kayak upstream as I would float downstream, and the rafts that I was floating along side would not be able to row fast enough to catch up to me. It was just like what Brian described in point C above. The only option for a rescue would be to swim to shore, and that was a 1/2 mile away at times. Even with the drysuit I wouldn't make it.

    I did what they always tell you not to do, I tied myself to the kayak with a 9' strap. Later I made up a strap with a quick release in case I ever found myself in this situation again.

    The Copper is a great float, but care does need to be taken.

  11. #11

    Default I grew up on the Yukon

    And I have been on most of the major rivers in Alaska in a canoe. Kusko, Tanana, Koyukuk, Innoko, and a lot of small ones.

    But my first time on the Copper in a 16 foot Jon boat made me pucker up a little. It is a very powerful river and is just not forgiving at all.

    Don't mess with it unless you are very prepared. A good friend of mine drowned in the Copper on a kayak trip. He was an experienced kayaker.
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  12. #12

    Default Boiling water is dangerous

    Back in engineering school we were taught that the most dangerous place in a sewage treatment plant was the aeration pond. Why?
    - aerated, bubbling water provides zero floatation.

    Much of the copper is fine, just a large powerful river. However, when you get in the canyon, there are very large areas of "bubbling" water where if you go in, you will not float and will sink - pfd or not. However, the question is how long you will be under (assuming you make it out to good water) and if you can make it through without getting entrapped. This is a really powerful river. Not a question I want to find out personally.

    I always wear my a pfd when dipnetting there and would advise anyone on or near the water to do the same.

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    Default

    I've swum in water that was too aerated to float in. I was wearing a high float PFD too, and I could not get to the top. Lots of air bubbles, and little water, all frothing away. I eventually "floated" out of the hole and rose to the top, but it was freaky for a while. That was the bottom of Staircase on Sixmile at very low water (it's most dangerous level).

    However, having floated through Copper's Wood canyon several times, I have never seen anything in there that was even remotely that aerated. You can find whirlpools that could drag you under if not wearing a PFD, but I've never seen any water in there that is so aerated that it would keep a person wearing a PFD down for more than a few seconds, if that. Some of those whirlpools could keep you from swimming out though -- PFD or not.

    The thing about the aerated water in the Copper is that it is still moving down river fast, so if you are in it, you quickly get pushed out of it. For aerated water to be dangerous it has to hold you. That usually happens at the bottoms of drops and waterfalls where the water keeps getting recirculated. The Copper doesn't have any of those that I have seen.

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    Default funny

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Strutz View Post
    For aerated water to be dangerous it has to hold you. That usually happens at the bottoms of drops and waterfalls where the water keeps getting recirculated. The Copper doesn't have any of those that I have seen.
    Funny, but I had just the opposite experience with air bubbles in water. When I was a teenager, we had a great swimming hole at the bottom of a 20 foot waterfall. We did a lot of cliff diving and jumping there. One of our favorite things to do was jump into the air bubbles at the bottom of the falls. From 20 feet up, sometimes your head wouldn't go underwater as the air bubbles cushioned your fall and pushed you to the surface. I live in the same area again now, so maybe I'll have to go experiment there again.

  15. #15

    Default

    I realize that this is an ancient thread. i have been going through the canoe forum page by page and when I came across this thread I felt that it needed to be resurrected due to it's timeless relevance. I also have something I would like to add to this. I have spent quite a few years dip netting on the copper river in the canyon and have arrived at my own conclusion as to why the copper is indeed so dangerous. Quite often I have observed logs floating down the canyon and simply disappear by getting sucked under. Many time they do not reappear within my site. I believe that the biggest danger in the copper river canyon and the reason that the silt danger "myth" was born is due not to the silt but rather the tremendous awe inspiring hydraulic forces exhibited there. There are tremendous "boils" that cover large areas of water where the water will be apparently humped up a bit compared to the water around that area and you can see the silt laden water rushing in from the center and dispersing outward. And the opposite is true as well where you can see whirlpools where huge logs get sucked under and don't reappear within site. (I'm sure they do reappear somewhere at some time afterwards.) Now the logs probably have been floating in the river for quite a while and may not have much positive buoyancy. Maybe a person with a PFD on **MAY** have enough positive buoyancy to overcome these hydraulics but a person without a PFD almost certainly will not, regardless of how good a swimmer they are IMHO. Once sucked under water and tumbled around in the Copper river you will not be able to know which way is up due to the low visibility silt laden water. Boats go up and down the copper all the time and THEY do not get sucked under due to so much positive buoyancy. Just my thoughts.

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