LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A kayaker bypassed a part of an Arkansas scenic river known as Dead Man’s Curve during a weekend trip, but a rare sinkhole created a whirlpool along his alternate channel and dragged him to his death.
Donald Wright, 64, from Searcy, Arkansas, died Saturday at Saddler Falls along the Spring River, said Keith Stephens, a spokesman for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. At least one other person was injured.
Sinkholes are common in the northern half of Arkansas, where subterranean limestone erodes away easily. Small whirlpools are common where bits of land extend into waterways, but having a sinkhole open a whirlpool in the middle of a stream is uncommon.
The Spring River was flowing normally Saturday — fed by Mammoth Spring, the second-largest spring in the Ozark Mountains. Its steady flow, at about 356 cubic feet per second (enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every four minutes), makes it desirable for basic training on kayaks and canoes.
Dead Man’s Curve has the occasional switchback, falls and pools, but isn’t terribly turbulent, said Rocky McCollum, owner of Spring River Camp and Canoe. Boaters avoid it mainly to take a short cut around the switchbacks — but doing so Saturday put them on a portion of the stream where the river bed gave way.