Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Death on “River of Sorrows” opens Colorado’s long, dangerous whitewater season

 The last time Colorado’s river basins swelled with above-average spring snowpacks in 2019, 12 people died in Colorado’s rivers and creeks. 

Richard Zehm was ready for the Dolores. The longtime resident of both Telluride and Norwood missed the River of Sorrows in 2019, the last time the river could float rafts, and the 72-year-old expert oarsman had his customized red raft rigged early, well before the river started churning to life last month. The yellow permit from a Middle Fork of the Salmon River descent almost 20 years ago flapped on the bow, a pennant to his passion for wild river canyons. 

“He had a deep appreciation for the rivers and their power,” said Allie Gausman, a Telluride business owner and Zehm’s niece. 

Zehm and a friend put on the river at Slick Rock below Disappointment Creek early May 10. Somewhere 20 to 30 miles downstream the raft flipped. He was last seen holding onto his boat in the swift, cold current...more

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