Video: A close call
updated 12/17/2004 3:58:25 PM ET 2004-12-17T20:58:25

A group of kayakers on Washington’s Sultan River were treated to a frightening display of Mother Nature’s might when an avalanche cascaded into a narrow canyon as they were paddling through.

The incident on Dec. 11, which they were able to capture on videotape, occurred shortly after the kayakers encountered some freshly fallen trees as they negotiated a tricky segment of the river.

Chris Joose, 34, of Seattle, writing about the landslide on the Boater Talk Internet forum, said he and his fellow paddlers gave the fresh timber little thought.

“Wood in the river is so common in the Northwest that we didn't bother considering where it had come from,” he wrote.

But moments later the unasked question was answered when a section of the cliff towering over the river gave way, unleashing a torrent of boulders and trees into a stretch of river through which several kayakers had just passed.

“We saw hundreds of tons of the cliff pile into the riverbed, damming the river up to 30 feet above current levels,” Joose wrote in describing the scene. “This sent a 5-foot wave headed downriver, and chunks of flying tree and rock flew to within feet of where we were, some 200 yards away.”

Despite the hurtling detritus, fellow kayaker Andrew Oberhardt kept his video camera rolling throughout the bombardment.

Though no one was injured in the landslide, continued crumbling of the wall forced the kayakers to stage a self-rescue operation for several members of their party trapped upstream. They used ropes and rescue tackle to climb out of the canyon and then hiked out to the nearest road.

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