Stand-up paddle boards, other uses barred between Riverway, Beaver Creek

An additional section of the Gunnison River is closed to certain types of watercraft following two unrelated fatalities late last week.

National Park Service (NPS) officials announced Tuesday, June 25 that the section of the river between Riverway (or McCabe’s Lane) and Beaver Creek west of Gunnison is closed to stand-up paddle boards, inner tubes and other low-profile water toys that have limited maneuverability. The closure is effective immediately and is in response to recent incidents.

On Friday, June 21 rangers at Curecanti National Recreation Area responded to two separate water-related accidents.

Late that morning, rangers responded to a request for assistance on the Gunnison River at the east end of Curecanti for a 31-year-old paddle boarder who had lost control of her board and later got hung up on a tree that was in the water.

NPS rangers, Gunnison County Sheriff’s Office, personnel from the Swiftwater Rescue Team, Gunnison firefighters and EMS responded to the location of the incident and recovered the victim.

Sarah Schultz, of Oklahoma, was taken to Gunnison Valley Hospital and later flown to Grand Junction. However, she did not survive. The incident continues to be investigated.

Later that afternoon, NPS rangers located a victim of an apparent kayaking accident. Petra Lachance, 65, was removed from the water and CPR was performed unsuccessfully. Lachance apparently had been kayaking on the east end of Blue Mesa Reservoir earlier in the morning and failed to return to her campsite. She was then reported missing. This incident also continues to be under investigation.

NPS advises all river users to exercise extreme caution, watch for debris in the water, and be prepared for other changes related to high water in the river. Reservoir users are reminded to be prepared for cold water and high winds.

Tuesday’s closure for certain types of watercraft follows other closures on area waterways enacted in recent weeks by Gunnison County Sheriff John Gallowich.

Effective June 7 and until further notice, the Gunnison River from Almont to the Whitewater Park on Hwy. 50 and the Slate River from Gunsight Bridge to the bridge on Hwy. 135 at mile marker 25.5 are closed to all watercraft.

Look for more on recent river-related accidents in the June 27 edition of the Times.