A portion of the Kathleen River above Lower Kathleen Lake. (Matthew Bossons/Yukon News)

A portion of the Kathleen River above Lower Kathleen Lake. (Matthew Bossons/Yukon News)

5 paddlers rescued by helicopter after accident on Kathleen River

The Kathleen River is known among paddlers as a dangerous stretch of water

Five paddlers and a dog were rescued by Yukon RCMP and a Capital Helicopters pilot on Aug. 5 after becoming stranded along the Kathleen River. Fortunately, no one was injured during the incident.

The paddlers became stuck after losing their canoe in rough water. Parks Canada staff in Kluane National Park notified Haines Junction RCMP of the paddlers’ plight, providing police with the GPS coordinates of the paddlers.

Upon learning of the situation, Yukon RCMP Search and Rescue coordinated with the helicopter charter service in Haines Junction to fly in and remove the group.

“The fact that these paddlers had a communications device with them made a huge difference in ensuring their safety,” Cst. Adam Christie, one of the Haines Junction officers on duty during this incident, said in a press release.

“It meant that they were able to reach out for help when they realized they were stranded, provide information about their location, and get connected with emergency responders.”

The RCMP press release encourages people heading into the Yukon wilderness to ensure they are prepared and have appropriate training.

Following the rescue operation, police officers drove the paddlers back to their vehicle.

According to a paddling report posted on PaddleMaps on July 19 this year, the Kathleen River was inundated with logs and debris. The post urges caution.

David Mason, an outdoor adventure guide and co-owner of Yukon Guided Adventures, told the News that the Kathleen River can be dangerous and that he does not take clients on the river.

He notes that fallen trees can be particularly hazardous on the waterway. Additionally, the river’s waterfalls are not for the faint of heart.

Both times Mason has paddled the Kathleen, he has done so with experienced paddlers, and he’s packed enough emergency supplies for “at least one night.”

“I would suggest you have some really good experience prior to doing it […] Because if something does go wrong, there’s no real way to walk out of it. You’re kind of stuck in between rivers and canyons, and there’s no ‘Oh, I’ve had enough. I’m walking home,” Mason said.

“I would suggest packing for at least one night to give you a day for people to come and rescue you.”

He also recommends that those interested in paddling the Kathleen carry satellite communication and inform someone of their travel plans and estimated return time.

READ MORE: Whitehorse woman tackles whitewater for the first time in her wheelchair

Contact Matthew Bossons at matthew.bossons@yukon-news.com

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