Aspen visitors rescued after paddle boarding incident below Stillwater
Three Aspen visitors received a scare and some cuts and bruises Saturday when they floated past the takeout for the North Star Nature Preserve and went over a dam downriver, an official said Monday.
The incident involved two women and a man with rented paddleboards who were spotted by an Aspen volunteer firefighter driving by who thought they might be in distress, said Mike Brands, a fellow volunteer firefighter who arrived on scene not long after.
The three could not stop and went over the small dam, which diverts water to the Salvation Ditch, Brands said.
“It’s a really dangerous situation,” he said. “They were definitely shaken.”
That’s because while the drop from the top of the concrete dam is only about 5 feet, the water crashes down into boulders and churning water hydraulics that can be dangerous, Brands said.
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When the first volunteer arrived, two of the paddleboarders were out of the water, and he helped the third get out, he said. All had abrasions and one was “pretty banged up,” but was not seriously injured and declined a trip to the hospital.
Firefighters then retrieved a paddleboard from a precarious position in the middle of the river, then used drones to find the other two boards, which were about 100 yards downstream, Brands said.
Such incidents usually happen about once a year, said Gary Tennenbaum, director of Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails Program. Officials soon plan to install a sign at the takeout that will inform boaters that Stillwater Bridge is the takeout and that conditions are dangerous farther on, he said.