Our Nanaimo River page made the papers!
There was an article on the second page of today's Nanaimo Bulletin that cited criticism about our site's Nanaimo River page.
We've been criticized for three things:
1) Not giving sufficient warning about the river's dangers, especially in light of the fact that we are promoting it pretty heavily.
-I will certainly amend this glaring oversight. The last thing I want is another death in the river. When I offhandedly wrote "Watch out for the dangerous spots", I was probably trying to be cheeky, imagining a local audience who would have known of the river's highly publicized dangers.
We are criticized for:
2) Promoting Nanaimo River / promoting the GunBarrel area:
-I will never apologize for this. The river is dangerous and beautiful, like hang-gliding, visiting other countries, and losing your virginity. Used responsibly, the river is pretty safe, and represents enormous value to its visitors. This is not even like arguing in favour of drugs or carpet-bombing, where negative effects are said to be justified by proportionately positive returns. Swimming in the Nanaimo River is a wholesome pursuit that contributes enormously to Nanaimo's value.
There is a perceived high ratio of risk to pleasure. However, if you see how many people visit the river over the summer, you know that a death each year, while tragic, is probably comparable to how often we're killed on the highways.
The third criticism:
3) Being unaccountable, ie, not responding to attempts to be contacted and interviewed - This is the only part of the Bulletin's article that upset us. I believe my partner already spoke with the journalist over the phone, and was told that we were emailed last Thursday or Friday. We never received an email - believe me, we would have been ecstatic about the publicity.
As it happens, we are anyway.
Note: There is some complication over nomenclature where the Gunbarrel is concerned. The name "Gunbarrel" refers to both A) a general area of the river where it is accessible from McDonalds Rd, and B) a deceptively innocuous looking spot along this stretch of river, where individuals have been trapped in underwater cavities and drowned. It is my understanding that the latter - the small, dangerous stretch of about three meters in length - was blasted with explosives sometime recently (last year?) and thus tamed.
A complication in the public understanding of this matter is exacerbated by publicity around the most recent Nanaimo River death. The newspapers (can anybody find a link to any of the articles?) quoted the site of the accident as "the Gunbarrel" - meaning the several-hundred-meter stretch of river accessible from McDonalds Road. The victim died not because he was swimming; he was standing on the rocks above a waterfall (where nobody would think to swim, tourist or not) and taking pictures of his friends (according to the sources I've heard from). He fell somehow and was crushed by the falls (this has nothing to do with the infamous Gunbarrel that I understand to have been blasted). This could have happened at any waterfall. It's true that that poor guy would still be able to hug his family if he hadn't gone to the Gunbarrel - but I hardly need to point out that we can't protect everyone all the time by cordoning everything off.
Here is part of the Gunbarrel. The whole pool that you see is very straightforward; no weird currents or killer funnels:
Last edited by riverrat; 02-12-2008 at 01:55 PM.
That picture makes me miss the river
Nice post.... Hurray for the river!
*edited for clarity.
Originally Posted by riverrat
Great post Riverrat, no such thing as bad press, huh?
'Gunbarrel' sounds so menacing too, perhaps we should call it 'Le Swimmy Hole' and people won't be so scared!
'tis unfortunate that people have lost their lives in the river - Mother nature sure is sadistic, what with taking the lives of people who enjoy her bounty the most.
There is danger in the outdoors! People, seriously, do not leave your homes! Do not hike/swim/kayak/run/bike ... do not climb a mountain, paddle around an island, or swim anywhere but a certified swimming pool with lifeguards on duty.
It is for your own good.
Or call it the Carebear Fun spot - no one will be afraid then. 5...4...3..2..1... LOVE!
I read that in the paper, and found it quite entertaining actually. I use to go there as a kid. I remember one summer, it was almost drought season, so the water was low, and gun barrel really was a gun barrel. Anyways, My family was sitting down for supper and my dad gets a phone call, and then another and then another..all relaying condolences in regards to my death from drowning at the river. Turns out, guy with a similar name did die there, and through word of mouth, my name eventually got picked.
Funny but sad at the same time.
On river hazards:
I am going to write an "article" on my blog specifically for swimmers/innertubers. Whitewater kayakers know, or *SHOULD* know if they have had competant instruction, the hazards on a river. As a stopgap measure before I write an article for non-kayakers, here is a river hazards guide for kayakers:
Take special note of:
Foot Entrapment (NEVER EVER try to stand in moving water deeper than your knees. When in doubt, swim - note the risk to flyfishermen here...) This is an extremely common killer amongst the unaware. Kayakers are well aware of this danger, and always swim with their feet UP. If you have ever tried whitewater rafting, and swam in a river, you were probably taught to swim with your feet downstream, and your toes poking out of the water. In general this is good advice. If you need to get somewhere specific though, don't be afraid to flip over on to your stomach and front crawl to get where you need to be.
Undercut Rocks <-- These are EXTREMELY COMMON on the Nanaimo River, and extremely deadly. Water current flows under undercut rocks, and traps debris such as wood... and swimmers. Undercut rocks will hold you there until you drown, and often much much longer.
Hydraulics (also known as 'keeper holes') This is where the water recirculates upon itself, it is very hard to describe in writing, and unless you have a skilled background in whitewater, the odds are you will not be able to identify a keeper hole. Thus, in general, stay out of "whitewater" if in doubt. Keep in mind that I have seen a keeper hole on the wenatchee river that looks quite dull to all the river rafters who see it - they all comment "why did we get out and walk around *THAT*?" And yet, it is the most dangerous thing on the river.
wood Anything made of wood - stay away from. The current can wrap your body around tree limbs and entrap you. The force can be powerful enough to break bones, not to mention hold you in place.
man made objects If you see something man-made, stay away. Man made objects are usually built for strength and not swimmer safety. Often, especially with concrete structures, they form lethal hydralics (like the one on the wenatchee river) that look incredibly boring. However, what you often don't see under the surface of concrete structures is that the river erodes the concrete, but leaves the rebar sticking out at all angles. You don't want to get pushed into rebar by a river...
Last edited by riverrat; 12-30-2006 at 01:33 PM.
Here are two pictures to compare the difference between the danger of water:
The water in this image appears to drop only about a foot or so...
(Seriously, the water above image could indeed be fatal to a swimmer!)
Englishman River Falls:
The water here drops 20 feet!
Most of you probably know the lower falls, and, as you can see that someone is running them, that they are (fairly) safe!
In one image, there is a 1 foot drop - with a great potental to be fatal. In the other, there is a 20 foot drop that people run all the time. The danger of hydraulics is not apparent to the layperson.
Last edited by Mr. Flibble; 08-14-2006 at 01:16 PM.
Hey George, you rock for writing that. Interesting and informative!
I'm curious what you meant about the lower falls that everybody is probably aware of. I'M not! That's not on the Nanaimo River, is it?