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SALT LAKE CITY — Two rafters say they escaped with their lives, but not all of their gear, when they were caught in last week's extraordinary release of water from Flaming Gorge Dam.
Now one of them has a warning for other rafters and a suggestion for the Bureau of Reclamation.
Shane Carlson packed carefully for his four-day trip down the Green River — food, clothes and of course his fishing gear. He and his friend had been looking forward to the trip for some time.
At first, the vacation was perfect. Then on the second night, right around midnight, his friend went to get water. "He opens up the tent, steps out, and he is ankle deep (in water)," Carlson said.
The two scrambled to get their gear out of the way of the rising water. The next day, they and a pair of rangers who came to check on them, ran into trouble when they went farther downriver.
Carlson's boat slammed into rocks, sending gear into the open water. "By then I'm screaming mad I'm like, ‘What in the world is going on?'" Carlson said.
Turns out it was the Federal Bureau of Reclamation releasing water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir. With the dam already 84 percent full due to deep snowpack, they were attempting to stay ahead of upcoming warm temperatures.
"There are signs along the river saying the stage could go up four feet," said Heather Hermansen, hydraulic engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation.
Carlson said he and his friend did see one of those signs and received another warning in a packet they were given when they pushed off. But he thinks a more specific warning for that day should have been given.
"Only thing we got was midnight running around in our underwear, trying to keep the rest of our stuff from going down the river," Carlson said.
The Bureau of Reclamation says water levels are going to go up and down without warning, especially when it gets warmer and snow melts on already saturated ground.
Officials at the BLM say when they release water from the dam, they notify all affected government agencies so they can provide more specific warnings to vacationers.