River Unit

Mighty Colorado River
Grand County Search and Rescue has the responsibility of rescuing boaters and swimmers from the sometimes raging waters of the Colorado River. Though deceptively calm in places, the river's dangerous currents can quickly overcome even the strongest swimmer. In Grand County, the Colorado River descends through Westwater Canyon, passes under Dewey Bridge, continues on through our "Daily" stretch to the highway bridge at Moab, and on down to Canyonlands National Park.

Brief History
Native Americans undoubtedly used and crossed the river for thousands of years. The Spanish used the Moab valley as a river crossing on their routes.

The part of the Colorado River above the confluence with the Green River was formerly known as the Grand River. One of the early descents of the Grand River was in 1889 when a Mr. Kendrick and party conducted a survey for the Denver, Colorado Canyon and Pacific Railroad. The idea was to build a railroad from the coal of western Colorado to southern California (oh those humans, again). Investors backed out and we are left with many miles of great recreational boating.
Search and Rescue Boat with Moutains Behind
As Moab was growing during the late 1800s, there were countless crossings of the river by wagon and stock. The recorded stories of the treacherous nature of the river begin here. It was not always safe and trouble could happen very fast.

When the Colorado River Basin water was divided between the states in the early 1920s, the Colorado legislature succeeded in getting the Grand River's name changed to the Colorado River. At about that time, local folks made numerous attempts to develop steam or diesel powered boats for various commercial reasons. Those efforts were almost all downstream from Moab.

Everyone who grew up in Moab went swimming and tubing in the Colorado River during the hot, lazy summer months never with life jackets. Rarely was there an incident. Then, in the 1970's, recreational boating began to mushroom in popularity. The number of negative river incidents also mushroomed. Life jackets for anyone traveling the river became the mantra.
Remain Cautious
However, not all people who use our rivers wear life jackets. There are several places along the river where campers grab their air mattress, or nothing at all, and float down the river. Some are dragged underwater by strong, swirling currents and drown.

Many people who use the river do not know what to do if their boat capsizes. Canoes are popular, rented or privately owned. When one tips over, the unprepared occupants aren't always able to help themselves. They end up floating on down the river and, too often, are dragged under by those strong, swirling currents.

Early each season, the river temperature is in the 40s and low 50s. And many visitors are ill-prepared for such dangerous water temperatures. If they end up in the water, hypothermia quickly lowers their body temperature to the point where they can't help themselves.

Boat Cautiously. The life you save will be your own. Seek competent instruction and local knowledge. Call the local search and rescue outfit to find out what usually goes wrong and how to prepare yourself for a pleasurable river excursion. Be prepared. Stay afloat. Stay alive.