Six Rafters Rescued From Deadly Dam on Williamette River

On May 18, six individuals were rescued from an unsafe log-filled low-head dam east of I-5 in Lane County, Oregon, while rafting down the Willamette River.

After five rafters fell into a strainer and one clung to a log stuck above the falls, rescuers were sent to the low-head dam near the Whilamut Passage Bridge. There wasn’t a single rafter wearing a life vest.

According to the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, a massive backup has developed at the dam. They probably wouldn’t be here today if they’d tried to get beneath the log jam.

Around 3 PM, first responders from Eugene-Springfield Fire, the county’s search and rescue team, and the Lane County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol arrived at the site. After being rescued from the river, every single rafter was accounted for.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), low-head dams are constructed to change the course of a river. The killer tidal currents created by these dams have the potential to ensnare swimmers in the water. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, more than 1,400 individuals have lost their lives at low-head dams in the United States.

A low-head dam is constructed in a way that allows water to flow continuously over the crest from one bank to the other. Any potential water enthusiast trying to cross the dam may be sucked in by an upstream-driven current created by an underwater hydraulic jump, which forms when water levels increase downstream.

Before diving into any local stream or river, swimmers, rafters, paddlers, or boaters are encouraged by the Lane County Sheriff’s Office to visit the web website of the Oregon State Watershed Board, which lists boating impediments. When participating in recreational water activities, it is highly recommended that individuals use life jackets.

According to the sheriff’s office, rafters must be very careful while crossing the low-head dam on the Willamette River. To avoid the obstacle, you must exit the water well in front of it.