A 20-year-old Fort Lewis College student training as a river guide with Southwest Whitewater drowned Friday in the
Piedra River about 20 miles west of Pagosa Springs. The body was recovered Saturday.
Robert Reiter, of Gypsum, was among 17 trainees on a familiarization tour when he fell from a raft about 1 p.m., Archuleta County Undersheriff John Weiss said Monday.
There are some pretty hefty rapids there," Weiss said. The water was flowing at about 1,600 cubic feet per second."
Reiter became lodged under a strainer," a submerged log or other obstacle, Weiss said. Reiter's companions tried to
extricate him and asked members of a party in a passing raft to alert authorities, Weiss said. But the lack of cell
phone coverage delayed a call to the Sheriff's Office until 4:09 p.m.
The accident occurred in a stretch of the Piedra known as the second box canyon (about 10 miles as the crow flies
north of Highway 160), which is virtually inaccessible by foot," Weiss said. We had a fire crew supervisor from our
emergency management department in the general area helping the Forest Service with a prescribed burn. He tried to
walk to the area but couldn't reach it."
Andy Corra with Four Corner River Sports in Durango and Kent Ford, a veteran freelance river guide, said a 1,600-cfs
flow would be considered a moderate velocity. Corra said guides in training must log 50 hours on rivers of varying
difficulty to become licensed.
In the stretch of the Piedra River where the drowning occurred there are only two places - at bridges at County Road
600 and at First Fork Road - that rafters can put in or take out their craft, Weiss said.
An Archuleta County search and rescue team, working with Pagosa Rafting Outfitters, got to the scene Saturday
morning, Weiss said.
They were working under precarious conditions using ropes and a come-along," Weiss said. They used a chain saw to
cut the tree and when the trunk rotated the body came up."