Arkansas River Rafters Run Into Trouble In Tulsa

Monday, July 6th 2015, 11:54 am
By: Emory Bryan

Three Colorado residents who've been floating down the Arkansas River on an 18-foot inflatable raft ran into a trouble at the low water dam in Tulsa Monday morning.

The trio, Jordan Miller, Donny Knowles and Susana Sierra set out to float the Arkansas from Kansas to the Mississippi River. Their trip started a month ago, but nearly ended when they ran into problems in Tulsa. 

The morning started with the expectation of another day of adventure.

"It's been an amazing time - a lot of amazing people," said rafter Donny Knowles.

With a raft full of supplies, the three explorers had already covered 350 miles of river with hardly a problem.

"Only been caught in a couple of rainstorms," said Jordan Miller, rafter.

Shortly after they pushed off from shore at 21st Street, they started battling a hard current - and a strong wind. They maneuvered to the middle of the river, after being warned to stay away from either end of the dam.

By the time they got there - they were in the perfect position - and went over just fine.

From downriver - it looked like they were paddling out of the turbulent water - but they were drifting west - into danger.

At the west end of the dam - the water churns, and the rafters couldn't get out of it. The raft was taking on water - and the frame began to break apart as fisherman tried to help from above.

It looked like the boat would be swamped before anyone could get them out.

"They were pretty convinced they were not going to make it out and we were as well until we got them the rope," said Michael Crumb, RiverParks superintendent.

Crumb had a heavy rope and tossed it down. With plenty of help, he was able to pull the raft out of the whirlpool.

"If they hadn't been there, I don't know," Knowles said.

The Tulsa Fire Department water rescue team arrived just as the three were being pulled out.

"This was not the plan," Miller said.

Paramedics checked everyone out. They were fine, and thankful that midway through their adventure, someone was there when they needed help.

"As soon as we got here, that thing sucked us up - it was that quick," rafter Susie Sierra said.

And they are midway through the adventure, making repairs Monday, planning on getting a new start, a little downriver - on their way to the Mississippi.