Between a raft and a rock place

Larry Bullard, left, with Mesa County Search and Rescue navigates his boat up the Colorado River at the James M. Robb State Park in the Corn Lake section past a group of rafters participating in Saturday’s Rock and Raft. Hundreds of people floated from Corn Lake to Watson Island, where they listened to a free concert by the Wrong Impressions, Suckafish and Ryan Harrison Acoustic.

As the band Wrong Impressions takes the stage, Chelsa Daugherty, left, of Grand Junction leaps for joy when she aces a shot playing corn hole against Mike Coppersmith, right, of Silt during Saturday’s Rock and Raft at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens amphitheater. The corn hole tournament was a fundraiser for Mesa County Search and Rescue.

It was supposed to be just a casual affair.

Only about 100 people were expected to show up to slowly float down the Colorado River from Corn Lake State Park to the Botanical Gardens Amphitheater on Saturday, and then have some suds, some burgers and listen to some good music.

But what started out as a humble affair turned into a big party as hundreds of boaters and rafters from around the region turned out for the second Rock & Raft fundraising event to benefit Mesa County Search and Rescue.

Last year, about 50 people showed up, and Tim Wood-mansee with search and rescue had hoped that number might double this year.

The whole point of the event, other than to help raise money for the group, is to teach rafters about how to practice safe rafting.

“Even though the river current is moving slowly right now, it is still very strong,” Wood-mansee said. “It is stronger than the strongest swimmer in the water, and I’m speaking from years of experience. It’s surprising to people once they enter the water at how strong it is. If they are pushed up against an immovable object, they will not be able to get off of it.”

As a result, the dumbest thing a rafter can do is raft without a life jacket.

Woodmansee said he knows they can be a tad uncomfortable, but it’s better than the alternative, drowning.

He pointed to a volunteer project started by Grand Valley resident Brian Cohee a few years ago. That project supplies free life jackets at various points along the river, and encourages people to take one if they don’t have a jacket, leaving it when they are done.

“If you don’t have one, take one, and wear it,” Woodmansee said, adding that oftentimes, people will just keep one nearby and not put it on.

That doesn’t do any good, he said.

“People go out there on a reasonable calm float, and they want to relax. They aren’t the most comfortable articles to wear, but you do get used to them,” he said. “You can still relax and have one on. It’s no different than wearing a seat belt in an automobile, or wearing a helmet when you’re riding a bike. For me, those things are automatic. I feel naked without them.”

The event is the brainchild of one of the bands that performed — for free — at the event, The Wrong Impressions, an alternative rock band based in Grand Junction.

Two other groups also performed, Ryan Harrison Acoustic and Suckafish, again for free.

While search and rescue gets some money from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, it still relies on donations.

That money is used to pay for team equipment, such as boats, vehicles, litters and ropes. Each volunteer usually pays for their own personal equipment.

The fundraising portion of the event came from a $20-entry fee for a double-elimination corn hole tournament.

The event also had help from the Horizon Sunrise Rotary, Alpine Bank and Guyman Towing, which helped shuttle rafts from the amphitheater to Corn Lake.


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