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Eagle Creek cliff jumpers land in pool of pain Sheriff Joe Wampler says Eagle Creek responsible for four to six rescue calls a month

Submitted photo

Rescue crews work to extricate the 17-year-old cliff jumper who injured his back on the 45-footer. He was transported to Legacy Emanuel Hospital.

By CHRISTIAN KNIGHT

News staff writer

July 30, 2005

For the second time since July 4, volunteer rescuers raced up the rocky Eagle Creek trail to extricate a cliff jumper, who had injured his back by hurling himself off the 45-foot cliff below Lower Punchbowl Falls.

The 17-year-old Portland resident was with a group of teenagers and young adults Wednesday afternoon when he decided to take the leap.

“They were escaping the heat on Eagle Creek,” said Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler. “I don’t blame them for that. They didn’t have a bunch of beer or anything like that. They were jumping off the rocks.”

Fortunately his friends responded by situating him in an inflatable raft and moving him downstream to the shallow streambed at the exit of the plunge pool.

“If it hadn’t been for the raft, we would have had to do the same thing we did on the Fourth of July,” Wampler said, referring to the six-hour rescue that forced Crag Rat Christopher Van Tilburg to swim and wade in Eagle Creek’s icy pool below Lower Punchbowl Falls.

He sat in the raft for two hours while four Crag Rats, seven Cascade Locks Fire Department volunteers and Wampler moved the one and a half miles up the trail to his rescue.

They reached him at 5 p.m.

“We were done by 9 p.m.,” Wampler said. “A pretty fast rescue.”

Of all the Gorge’s hikes, Eagle Creek hosts the most peril to hikers.

Wampler said rescuers respond to three or four incidents a month up there.

“It’s the sheer numbers of people,” he said. “You go down there and you can’t find a place to park. The trail system is nice. But it’s the people going off the trails. I never picked anybody up who didn’t leave the trail. It’s when they start wandering away from the trail that they get into trouble.”

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