As an introduction to Mandy Tanner, whitewater river ranger, Beth is here today to explain what Mandy's job is like.
What Whitewater River Rangers Do by Beth Groundwater, Guest Blogger
Much like forest rangers, river rangers enforce the regulations of the national or state parks in which they work. They provide information to the public, such as river conditions, river regulations, safety, natural history, cultural history, and especially about being good stewards of the environment. River rangers may also collect data and samples for studies and assist in special research projects.
The parks issue licenses to outfitters to run commercial trips down the rivers and may require private users to buy permits, too. River rangers check for these licenses and permits, inspect outfitters’ businesses, check the safety of commercial and private boats, issue citations, and fill out paperwork. Like most river rangers, Mandy Tanner hates paperwork and would rather be outside all day.
River rangers also serve as first-response law enforcement officers, breaking up altercations between park users, dealing with intoxicated drunks, and handling all the amazing kinds of trouble people can get into. Since many don’t carry firearms, they’ll often call for backup from local county Sheriff’s Offices if the situation is serious.
River rangers maintain and clean up riverside recreation sites, including campgrounds, trails, beaches and boat ramps. They notify park engineers when repairs need to be made to park facilities and equipment. They may remove nonnative vegetation such as invasive weeds or re-vegetate social trails.
On whitewater rivers, downed trees in the river can be life-threatening hazards. When one is sighted in the river by a rafting guide or ranger, a crew is put together to remove the hazard. Deadly Currents includes a scene where Mandy has to chainsaw a tree hazard, with interesting results!
Most river rangers will agree that the days they look forward to most are those they spend on the river, conducting patrols. On these patrols, along with looking for hazards, they look for people on the river who are in trouble and may need rescues or medical assistance. On long rivers, these patrols may last many days and require camping overnight along the river. Deadly Currents starts out with Mandy attempting a whitewater rescue that goes seriously wrong.
Whitewater river rangers are expected to already be experienced in running whitewater when they apply for the job, and many are former commercial rafting guides. They take yearly classes in first aid and CPR and in swiftwater rescue techniques. To research Deadly Currents, I observed one of these class days and took extensive notes and photos.
In the first photo below, a ranger tied to a rope has gone into the water to rescue a swimmer and a raft is coming to pull them both out of the water. In the second photo, a raft is held in place and slowly moved side-to-side by rangers manning lines on both shores while one ranger in the raft probes a rapid with a pole, looking for a body. The last photo shows rangers manning ropes as they try to pull a stuck raft off of mid-river rocks. Note that they are all wearing wet or drysuits, PFDs (lifejackets) and helmets for their personal safety. Also look at all the ropes involved!
River rangers work all over the United States and in other countries. To give you an idea, in Colorado, they patrol the Arkansas, Colorado, Dolores, Gunnison, and San Miguel rivers and in Oregon, they patrol the Deschutes, Grande Ronde, John Day, Klamath, North Umpqua, and Rogue rivers. If you’d like to learn more about whitewater river rangering, check out this blog written by a river ranger for and about those whose job takes them down wild and scenic rivers.
Have you ever encountered a river ranger while on the river? What was she/he doing? Do you think being a river ranger sounds like an attractive job or not? What questions do you have about river ranger job duties? Remember, everyone who comments will be entered into a contest for a free copy of Deadly Currents.
If you’d like to see what the other stops are on my virtual book tour, go to: http://bethgroundwater.com/2011_Virtual_Book_Tour.html, and if you’d like to order an autographed copy of Deadly Currents, go to the website for Black Cat Books and click on "Contact Us”. Either call the phone number or fill out the form with your contact information.
Beth Groundwater writes the Claire Hanover gift basket designer mystery series (A Real Basket Case, a 2007 Best First Novel Agatha Award finalist, and To Hell in a Handbasket, 2009) and the Rocky Mountain Outdoor Adventures mystery series starring whitewater river ranger Mandy Tanner. The first, Deadly Currents, will be released March 8th.
Beth lives in Colorado and enjoys its many outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and whitewater rafting. She loves talking to book clubs, too, and not just for the gossip and wine!
Please visit her website at bethgroundwater.com and her blog at bethgroundwater.blogspot.com.