Summit High grad dies in kayaking accident |

Summit High grad dies in kayaking accident

Caitlin Row
Summit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily News file photoDerk Slottow, center, is seen here in 2004 after receiving a scholarship for the School of Mines.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado – Derk Slottow, a 21-year-old Summit High School graduate from Summit Cove, died Saturday in a kayaking accident. He was paddling on the Big South Fork of the Cache La Poudre River in Larimer County just west of Fort Collins.

According to Larimer County officials, he drowned after flipping and hitting his head.

“He ran it (the same section of the river) on Thursday,” said Luke Slottow, his father. “I think it was just a freak accident.”

A friend traveling with Slottow pulled him from the water after the accident and performed CPR. The friend then left to find help – he trekked almost two miles to notify a Rocky Mountain National Park ranger of the accident at the Corral Creek Trailhead. That ranger called the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office dispatch for help around noon.

Six Larimer County Search and Rescue members, three Colorado State Park rangers and three members of the North Park Volunteer Fire Department aided in the recovery. Slottow’s body was carried out because the secluded area wasn’t accessible to county vehicles, said Mike Fink, the public information officer for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office. Fink said he didn’t know any specifics about events leading up to the accident.

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first fatality ever on the Big South” branch of the river, Fink said.

Passionate kayaker and student

Slottow was passionate about his studies and outdoor activities – he was a civil engineering student, an avid kayaker and president of the Colorado School of Mines Kayaking Club.

His path to the Colorado School of Mines started while he was a Summit High School junior. Slottow was awarded the Colorado School of Mines Medal of Achievement in Math and Science in 2004, including a $1,000 scholarship to the college, which at the time was among Slottow’s top choices for continued education.

“I’ve always been a person who thinks logically,” Slottow told the Summit Daily News in 2004. “I like the sciences, because there’s a right answer you can arrive at every time.”

According to the Denver Post, Slottow was also an intern for the McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, a company that designs whitewater courses and parks.

“He was one of those people where if you were fortunate enough to become friends with him, he’d always be there for you,” said Dave Brokering, Slottow’s friend and fellow kayaker.

A comment made on the Denver Post story reporting Slottow’s death read: “RIP. A great member of the boating community will be missed. Thoughts and condolences to close friends and family.”

Another person commented: “I hope his family and friends find some modicum of comfort in knowing he died doing what he loved.”

Slottow will be remembered as a successful student and athlete – he was reported in the Summit Daily News as making the high school honor roll, taking advanced placement tests for college and he received a scholarship in 2005 while a graduating senior. As a member of Team Summit, a nationally known ski and snowboarding team in the county, he won the Rocky Freestyle’s coveted Sportsman of the Year award in 2006.

Slottow was the son of Luke and Annie Slottow of Summit Cove. His memorial service will be held Friday at 5 p.m. in the Keystone Conference Center and it will be followed by a reception. The Slottow family asks that donations be sent to First Descents,, an organization that provides whitewater kayaking experiences for young adults fighting cancer.

Claire Trageser of the Denver Post contributed to this article.

Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at

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