Michael Pearce

Rafters need to be rescued in Tulsa

Michael Pearce


A few weeks ago I wrote about three Colorado rafters trying to float the Arkansas River from near Great Bend to the Mississippi River, and how leisurely their trip was going. Sunday, Kelly Bostian of the Tulsa World, published a video of the rafters where they again said how pleased they were with their progress.

Well, Monday in Tulsa things got quite a bit out of control for Jordan Miller, Donny Knowles and Susana Sierra when they got caught up in fast current and got pinned up against a dam, according to KOTV, in Tulsa. Video of the event shows the raft, and the rafters, getting slammed around in turbulent water, with equipment falling from the boat. Their report said the boat had some structural damage before it was pulled to safety by onlookers with a heavy rope.

“They were pretty convinced they were not going to make it out and we were as well until we got them a rope,” Michael Crumbs, RiverParks supervisor told the station.

“This was not the plan,” Miller, the group’s leader told the camera. The report said the rafters hope to return to floating after resting and making some repairs.

In an e-mail, Bostian said that area of the Arkansas River is notorious for accidents, many of which have been fatal.

In a phone interview Wednesday evening, Miller said the group plans to push on, though he sometimes wondered.

“When it was all happening, what was going through my mind was ‘great, everything I’ve worked so hard for the last six months is gone’,”Miller said. “But as soon as I got on the bank I started thinking differently. We all three, and the boat, came out of it alive. We can fix the boat.” Miller said they lost a dry box full of tools and two handguns, and a dry bag that mostly held winter clothing if he decides to stay with friends and relatives in Arkansas for a few months.

He thinks it will take several days to fix the boat’s frame, but they won’t be on the water for possibly two weeks or more. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told Miller water levels were too dangerous for them to allow the raft on the river until levels drop. For a few days the trio camped out under a bridge over the river. Now they’re staying in a motel.

Miller said two of the police dispatchers who sent help to the scene started a GoFundMe account for the rafters and so far have raised enough money for at least a week in a motel. It’s not the first time the rafters have benefited from the kindness of strangers.

The Arkansas River Coalition provided some supplies, maps, advice and a trailer for a short portage in Wichita as the rafters passed through. Miller said several members of the group offered assistance on the river between Wichita and the Oklahoma border, where the river runs into Kaw Reservoir, a sizable lake.

“Somebody contacted the coalition and said they wanted to tow us the length of the lake,” Miller said. “They had a big flatbed (trailer) up by the dam and portaged us around the dam.” Miller said random boaters gave them tows down Keystone Reservoir, too. They spent the Fourth of July at a state park on Keystone, where they met a lot more people who helped in various ways.

“All the help we’ve gotten is really amazing. Honestly, it’s truly humbling,” he said. “I don’t care what anybody says, there are a lot of good people out there.”

More updates

Gov. Sam Brownback’s office has announced the appointment of two people to the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission. Actually Tom Dill, of Salina, was a re-appointment. The new person on the board is Harrison Williams, of Wichita. He takes the seat voluntarily vacated by Randy Doll, of Leon. Doll served one four-year term, though he missed about half of the meetings.

We have an article about Williams running online. He’s a native of the Pratt area, holds two college degrees, retired from Boeing’s security division and is an avid hunter and angler. I know I enjoyed talking with him.

Brownback has yet to name a third person to the commission, to fill a term that ends in August. That seat is currently held by Don Budd, who has expressed a desire to be re-appointed.

Reports continue to come in about this year’s crop of young pheasants. Most of the reports are pretty positive. I’m hearing of more and more quail broods being seen recently, too.

Some decent fishing reports are coming in. A buddy and three others did well trolling for walleye at El Dorado Reservoir a few days ago. They said they probably caught close to 40. That includes the two apiece that would be more than the state’s 21-inch minimum length limit, but they only kept a pair. A friend’s son caught some nice bass at Kingman State Fishing Lake, which he released. The fish were near some lily pads.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page feature will have much more details about how things look for this year’s pheasant season. Some of the quotes and observations are pretty danged impressive. Keep in mind while you read it, that it is not Wildlife and Parks official forecast for this fall’s hunting seasons.

Down the road I’m planning on an Outdoors page feature on a sport I loved up through my college years, but haven’t done much of since - catching bullfrogs at night. I’m trying to get interviews and photos for a story about how Kansas fish farmers are hustling to meet all of the orders of people who want to re-stock their ponds, which had gone dry during the drought.

Further down the road I’m hoping for an Outdoors page feature on a Kansan who is a true artist, making some beautiful, and life like creations. And he does it out of deer hair that’s tied to a big fishing hook. These are far from your average deer hair poppers people use for bass.

Michael’s world

Kathy and I really had a great Fourth of July weekend. We got a lot done and did a lot of nothing, too. One project I had was taking down about a five-foot stump in the easement on the south side of our yard. It was a beast, diameter wise and butted up against a neighbor’s chain link fence. I ended up taking it out in 24-inch chunks, using splitting wedges and a sledge hammer to break it into pieces where it stood. You know, when I was in high school I used to enjoy cutting wood and splitting it in such a manner. Of course it wasn’t 90 degrees outside back then and I was in a bit better shape.

Whatever, I’d looked at the ugly thing, and a huge chunk of wood below it, for about ten years waiting for our neighbor to do something about the mess. Finally, I had enough. It looks much better now and I got two good workouts. The first was splitting it up with the wedges. The second was hauling the pieces to the curb where they’ll be picked up by a Newton city employee, for free.

Saturday morning I headed out for about two hours of fly-fishng, which turned into closer to four hours of fly-fishing. Kathy wasn’t surprised. I did pretty well, catching about 20 bass, a few green sunfish and a nice channel cat. It was good to hear all of the quail whistling and a rooster pheasant crowing.

I try to make it out to work with Cade, our three-month-old Lab puppy at least once a day. A buddy got me permission on a nice pond and pasture about four miles from my house. He’s marking better than I could have hoped on land, and does a nice job in the water Sometimes, though, he’ll stop a few feet from the water then just stares at the floating retrieving dummy. When he decides to go get it, which is never more than a few seconds, he attacks the water. I’m not sure what’s going through his little puppy brain when he’s doing that. He’ll do the same thing on some land retrieves if we’re quite a ways above where the dummy landed, like if I’m throwing from the top of a pond dam.

He has me puzzled but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.

Hey dove hunters, if you’re planning on hunting birds on public lands don’t forget you’ll be need steel shot, and it’s hard to find when the season opens. I picked up several boxes at Gander Mountain this week. The price was about what I’d pay for lead target loads so I thought it was a good deal.


Michael Pearce