Family Nearly Drowns While Braving OKC’s White Water Rapids

Until a few years ago, drowning in OKC’s white water rapids wasn’t a possibility. But now, thanks to human ingenuity and MAPS 3, it’s on Visit OKC’s shortlist of the “10 Most Adventuresome Ways To Kick The Bucket in the 405.”


A family visiting Oklahoma says a trip to Riversport Adventures turned dangerous.

“We almost lost our lives. I could have lost my wife. I could have lost my child,” said James Wolfe.

Wolfe, his wife, Kimberly, and their 12-year-old son, Wesley, visited Riversport Adventures in late July and decided to go white water rafting. They say their first trip down the river went smoothly, but their second trip went south.

“The raft entirely capsized on top of us throwing my wife over me. I just said, ‘I gotta get this raft off me, I’ve gotta breathe,’” said Wolfe.

Wolfe says he was taught a maneuver to escape from the raft, but he says it wasn’t working. Finally, he used all of his strength to flip it over.

“I was gonna do anything I could to survive, and I knew my wife was under there as well,” he said.

It’s amazing how strong the will to live can be, especially when you’re facing an embarrassing death at the hands of OKC’s artificial white water rapids! Seriously, outside of dying in an avalanche in the OKC Silos, or falling to your death because the parachute didn’t open at iFly, it would be one of the worst ways to go out.

Here’s more:

Wolfe and his son made it back to dry land, but his wife was swept downstream with the rushing waters. She was eventually rescued, but she says she could barley breathe and had cuts and bruises.

“We were battered and bruised quite a bit,” said Wolfe.

Lucas Williams, Director of Operations at Riversport, says a raft flipping over or visitors falling into the water isn’t uncommon. He also says all visitors are required to sign liability waivers, but that safety is a priority.

Hmmn. Safety is a priority, but people falling into the raging white water isn’t uncommon? That makes as much sense as OKC having a white water rafting facility in the first place.

Anyway, according to KFOR, the victims went full Karen and asked to speak with the manager after the near-death experience. Hopefully, they get some free ride coupons out of the harrowing experience.

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18 Responses

  1. Yeah, nice heartstrings pulling write up, KFOR-skin. First world problems, capsizing in a man-made urban river rapid machine. I guess Riversport will be on the hook for poor Wesley’s PTSD counseling.

  2. What dud they think this was a log ride at six flags ??

  3. That water doesn’t look so “white” in the video. I guess they get it out of the chocolate-brown “Oklahoma” River. (I said “chocolate” instead of my first thought.)

    May I suggest that the next time you want an experience on a river, come to float the Illinois River near Tahlequah. You will be in a canoe, not a raft, but the river is much lazier than that insanity in the video. If your canoe tips over, it’s not such a big deal – it happened to me once when we floated under a low tree branch that pushed me over.

    The scenery along the river is much nicer than urban OKC, and the water is better too. The nearby poultry operations made the Illinois excessively green and scummy for a while, but it’s getting better all the time. Not as clear as it once was, but maybe someday…

    1. Totally with ya on floating the Illinois being a better time than whatever the hell is going on in OKC. However, most people float the Illinois in rafts or kayaks now, not canoes. I haven’t been there this year (yet) but have floated there at least once every summer for about the past 8 years now. You rarely see canoes there. The rafts are pretty much the exact same 6-person capacity rafts they have at OKC Watersports. On the busier weekends the party dudebro/gal groups sometimes strap up to 5-6 rafts together to form a massive drunken nearly-naked human barge.

      It’s not uncommon to have to rescue stray drunks with groups like that from drowning.

      Anyway, I’ve also done the OKC Watersports rapids and they’re no joke. Everyone is required to wear helmets for good reason. You WILL fall out if you can’t follow directions and don’t brace yourself appropriately. I would not want to be drunk and try to do those.

      That said, why is this a news story, KFOR? This particular Karen was so displeased with the manager’s response that he took it to the local news and they actually published a story. “Man-made rapids in OKC kinda strenuous.” That’s literally the entire story. Why is that news?

      1. How deep is the water?

      2. I did the tubing …looked innocent enough but at the first drop it can be violent and toss you upside down , hitting the concrete sides . Then disoriented, you are swept quickly toward a ” drain” …they throw you a bouy, don’t come and rescue you. I won’t be doing it again. Someone I know who went through the training to be on staff, said broken bones were frequent. Yikes!

  4. They showed this family on the news last night.
    They should have never attempted it in their physical condition (or lack of). Amazing so many have a lack of awareness of what they aren’t capable of.

  5. If you are very quiet and listen closely, you can almost hear Darwin lamenting to his ghost buddies about the three that got away.

  6. “They say their first trip down the river went smoothly, but their second trip went south.”

    Mike Morgan must have been relieved.

  7. When asked why he wouldn’t drink water W. C. Fields said, “Fish fuck in in.” The only good water is a splash in a glass of single malt scotch.

    1. That’s pretty good, but my favorite quote of his is: “Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake.”

  8. Yeah, that guy is just looking for some monetary compensation either from Riversport or using the local news to attempt to fish out free legal services. I don’t think he realizes he signed a waiver before participating acknowledging he knew the inherent risks he was about to partake in.

    Whitewater rafting whether artificial or in a natural setting has a set of risks involved with it. Having visited Riversport before I know his family was given a safety talk and was told of the possible scenarios that could happen on their trip (raft flipping, falling out, etc). They were also told what to do if any of those scenarios actually become realized. Who knows if they actually paid attention to this or just thought they were on a Disney adventure ride (which it’s not). The intent of the whitewater park is to give a rafter the experience of being on class 2 or 3 (sometimes 4) rapids.
    Speaking from experience, I have had some trips where my fellow Okie rafters weren’t paying attention or ignored the instructions from their guide. Guess what? It went bad for them too.

    To answer King Speculator Greychin, the water in the rapids is city water. There’s dust mixed in which gives it the brown color. The brown color also comes from the walls of the rapids being stained with dirt. They have a filtration and cleaning system, but I guess it can’t filter out finer particles that cause the color. I would take the Pepsi challenge and drink the whitewater system water before I would ever take a drink from the Oklahoma or Illinois river. I would never consider floating the Illinois and find myself swimming in everyone else’s pee. I’ll take New Braunfels any day.

    1. King speculator.

  9. This “attraction” has yet to come even close to breaking even, unless something in the last few months has changed. OKC keeps pumping big money into it. I even think some of the stimulus money was poured into that high maintenance, high overhead boondoggle.
    If this kind of incident keeps occurring, the banks will be lined helter-skelter with lawyers.

  10. Zero F’s given for someone who willingly put themselves in a potentially dangerous situation.

  11. Next we will get a story about the doors not opening on the Downtown new fangled Trolley, and that a person was stuck on it for 3 slow speed and boring trips around the metro. The person aboard would retell the horror of being ushered through a ghost town landscape of seeing people arguing about wearing a mask and touting “Oil is the answer.” Then that person would look into the news camera and say, “You guys paid how much for this thing?” and then ask “Why?” Yes, a Top 10 state.

  12. I have rafted on the Colorado River and at OKC Riversport. Riversport was a wilder ride (admittedly the Colorado River trip was not during high flow conditions). We didn’t get flipped but got at some high angles that required a good grip and some core strength to keep your head up. These people thought it was going to be a log ride or something — this is pretty close to the real deal.

  13. Co-worker of mine nearly drowned there last year_almost same situation, raft got stuck in a jetty, tipped and she and another got dumped out-she got sucked under the raft and had to use all of her might to get the raft off of her-scraped up and bruised etc-raft guide laughed it off and thought it was funny. Liability waiver signed includes loss of life soooo, at some point, someone will drown and stories like this will come foward as there are plenty more to be shared.

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