By Robert Wright
FAIRBANKS — Not one, but two parties of hunters from Southcentral Alaska were trapped south of the Delta River upstream from Delta Junction last weekend where the silty water is running higher than usual for the season.
The first party was brought out with help of a mud-bogging Dodge pickup from Delta Junction on Saturday night. An Alaska State Troopers helicopter from Anchorage rescued the second group Monday morning. No one was injured in either rescue.
“What a lot of people are experiencing is they’ll find the one way across, and when they go to come back, they can’t quite make it the same way back,” said Sgt. Jason Pugh with the Alaska State Troopers in Delta Junction. It’s not unusual for ATVers to get stuck on the far side of the braided river from the Richardson Highway, but it usually happens in September, not so late in the season, Pugh said.
In the first rescue, troopers got a cellphone call from Anchorage resident Charles M. Countwright, 59, near Darling Creek, about 35 miles south of Delta Junction. The man reported his son had capsized an ATV while trying to cross the river and was wet and cold. Countwright’s son walked a mile to the highway and was transported to Family Medical Center in Delta Junction. Rescuing Countwright and a hunting partner was more difficult and involved help from a Delta Junction man with oversized tires on his Dodge truck who risked losing his truck in the channel to help. The rescue went well, though at some point the truck had electrical issues forcing them to drive out wearing personal headlights, said Trooper Michael Wilcox, who assisted in the rescue of Countwright.
In the second incident, troopers rescued Wasilla resident Gary Root, 43, and two juvenile campers who had gotten their truck stuck Sunday afternoon on the far side of the river near the Donnelly Creek campground, about 25 miles south of Delta Junction, according to a trooper news release. The group had camping equipment and spent the night camped near the river. In the morning, a trooper helicopter arrived from Anchorage and flew them back to Wasilla.