2009 Lower Deschutes River
May 02, 2009 at 7:53 AM
Submitted by Eric Ball
Buckhollow to Heritage Landing, 43 miles
May 2-4, 2009
Flow: Approximately 4,700cfs
Shuttle: Deschutes River Shuttles, $70 per vehicle
9 people, 6 boats, 1 dog
When we shoved the boats into the water, a loud bubbling sound was evident from one of the craft, necessitating an on-scene repair. Rather than further delay the group, 4 of the 6 boats launched and floated uneventfully to camp at Dike. The remaining two boats (who had knowledge of the river) caught up to us at camp.
Lesson #1: Is the glue in your repair kit still fresh? When was the last time you checked?
Once in camp, we had two significant rainstorms. One of our party had brought a wing, so we all crowded around its shelter. Fortunately, the weather cleared for the rest of the trip.
Lesson #2: Do you have a rain shelter for your cooking set up?
On the second day, we floated to camp at Bedspring, stopping to see the old railroad water tower (river right), and the old farm homestead just down the river from there. After setting up camp under blue skies, we walked down the railroad grade to scout XXX rapid. On the way back, we encountered a rattlesnake slithering off the trail. Before we could stop her, Josie the dog bit into it, and the snake bit back, striking Josie’s face. Initially, there was no local swelling, raising our hopes for a positive outcome. However, over the course of the next several hours, there was increasing swelling in her face and neck, vomiting, lethargy, and, around one in the morning, she died. (See accompanying eulogy by Tom Hanson.)
We had a satellite phone and called out to a veterinarian, who recommended aspirin and an antibiotic as “the best we could do”. I also called my wife who did an internet search of rattlesnake bite treatment as well. Evacuating the dog would have meant an 8 mile hike or similar boat trip (late afternoon departure, headwinds, and lack of familiarity with the river), plus a drive from the take out to a vet, wherever one could be found on a weekend. We decided that the delay in reaching treatment and the risk of the trip did not support that course of action. Already against us was the dog’s age (14), and small size (15 pounds).
Lesson #3: It’s hard to know what we should have done differently. I hope to offer a future article with a well-researched list of suggestions for first aid to people and dogs with snakebites. I would welcome hearing from others in the club who have experience or expertise in this area. Although I live in desert snake country, I have seen more rattlesnakes on river trips than I seen in my entire life outside of river trips, so there is some risk for all of us.
The last day was a somber 8-mile float to Heritage Landing. Everyone took conservative lines on the 5 or so Class 3 rapids in this section. At the take out, two cars had dead batteries at the take out. In one case, the key fob wouldn’t open the door (the key was locked in the vehicle), which required a break in job to fix.
Final Lesson: Always take your spare key for the shuttle.