by Mary Lowers
Long time Baca resident Tom McMurray, 63 drowned in a rafting accident on the upper Arkansas River downstream from Salida the morning of June 23. According to Capt. Don Pinover of the Fremont County Sheriff’s Dept., McMurray’s body was spotted floating down the river at 11:30am. Emergency personnel from Salida were able to pull the body from the water near the Wellsville Bridge off US Hwy 50.
It is thought that McMurray launched his “ducky” a small individual raft designed for one person from somewhere in Salida. An experienced rafter, he was doing everything right safety wise. He was wearing a helmet, a personal flotation device and a wetsuit. It’s difficult to know exactly what happened since he was alone.
A kind-hearted person, McMurray loved nature and animals. He was active in animal rescue and a dog lover. McMurray was an avid birder and bird photographer. Local photographer Bill Ellzey told me his bird shots had “a real professional quality.” He had returned recently from a trip to the Galapagos Islands and Panama with his granddaughter.
The Arkansas was measured on June 23 to be flowing at 2100 cubic feet of water. McMurray was the fifth fatality in the river this summer.