A swiftwater rescue was conducted in the afternoon hours of August 11, 2019 on the Kickapoo River between landing 10 and bridge 11, near Rockton, WI in the town of Whitestown.  Sheriff Spears reports rescue efforts resulted in locating and safely rescuing four individuals.


Overnight rains north of Ontario, WI caused the Kickapoo River to rapidly rise, creating unsafe river conditions.  Vikki L. Hanson, age 49, Karen M. Beard, age 53, Lori J. Brabek, age 51, and Mindy L. Thompson, age 49, all of Rockford, IL, were recreating on the river in personal kayaks prior to the incident.


At 12:20 PM, Vikki Hanson was able to place a 911 call to the Vernon County Dispatch Center reporting she and had her three friends’ kayaks had capsized, and were stuck in a log jam.  Kickapoo Valley Reserve Police located the stranded kayakers after an extensive search, but were unable to reach them due to the rugged terrain.  Kickapoo Valley Reserve Police remained in voice contact with the stranded kayakers.


The La Farge Fire Department began their swiftwater rescue efforts by canoeing downstream from landing 10.  The La Farge Fire Department located the stranded kayakers on a section of the Kickapoo River with rock embankments on both sides of the river.  The location made rescue efforts difficult.  Safety ropes were deployed, and the stranded kayakers were hoisted to safety, and taken to a nearby medical triage for treatment.  The quick response from rescue personnel minimized medical complications.  All parties were treated and released from the scene.


Sheriff Spears reports that even though the recent rains did not cause the Kickapoo River to overflow its banks, the heavy rains caused the river to rise, and the current to move very fast.  The Kickapoo River normally has a slow current, but navigation through river debris has become a problem over the last couple of years, due to continuous flooding.  Crews from the Kickapoo Valley Reserve do a great job at clearing debris.  However, Sheriff Spears encourages people to stay off the Kickapoo River when the river rises, and the current is moving fast.  Sheriff Spears encourages river users to contact the Kickapoo Valley Reserve, Wildcat Mountain State Park, and local canoe outfitters for current river conditions.  Sheriff Spears states checking with local weather information sources, and keeping an eye on current weather conditions is vital for safe river travel.