There are a handful of Class II rapids on the San Juan river, and we run them all successfully, all except one. There are also what are termed "riffles." I run a couple of these in an inflatable kayak, and while I have to dodge a few rocks and ride a few wave trains, they aren't anything too scary. However, the river is low, 1300 cfs, and I learn that makes it "bony"–more rocks showing than when the water is high.
When we pull over to scout Government Rapids, a Class III, we notice we have company. A group we have seen before are taking a packraft up to run it again and again. I've realized that rapids aren't really my thing; I'd much rather just float down a lazy river. But here we are and we have to get through somehow. This rapids looks bigger and scarier, rocks sticking up like teeth. There is a trail around it, and my intuition tells me to walk around. But I don't. However, none of us are up for taking the inflatable kayak through, and a happy member of the other group says he will do it for us. There's no shame in this.
The lead boat makes it through without any trouble, and then it is our turn. I perch on the front of the raft, without much to hold on to, but I've been fine in other rapids, so I should be here. We negotiate the first turn, and then suddenly we are balanced on a rock. I have a sinking feeling, and only have time to say, "Rock!" before it happens.
As the boat bounces over the rock, it hits the trough behind it. I am immediately thrown out. I go deep into the water, my head smashing onto a rock. My PFD brings me to the surface and I swim the rapids, doing what I've been told to do, taking deep gasping breaths for air. Somehow I avoid all other rocks and swim out to the beach below. Somehow, inexplicably, I am fine. My head hurts and I will have a huge bruise, but I am fine.
I don't blame the rower or the rapids–it was just a mistake. While you don't need to face a life threatening experience to know this, I am reminded how grateful I am to be this age, with a few aches and pains, but otherwise healthy and privileged enough to do this kind of thing. But there's not going to be a lot of rapids in my future. Been there, swam that. picture. This is at much higher water than when we went through. You could not go down the middle like this, too many rocks.