JULY 1, 2010

Tribal elder Ralph Johnson drowns near Riggins

   Ralph Cecil Johnson, 69, of Orofino drowned shortly before 5:30 a.m. Tuesday while fishing in swift-moving waters near Riggins.

   Johnson, a Nez Perce Tribal elder, was fishing in the Rapid River, located near the confluence of the Little Salmon River, when he reportedly fell. Swift-moving currents carried him about a quarter-mile downstream before fishermen in the area were able to pull him to shore.

   Johnson was pronounced dead when Idaho County Sheriff's Deputies arrived on scene a short time later.

   The tribe’s fish and wildlife commission approved a 24-hour closure of the Rapid River to tribal fishermen Wednesday out of respect for Johnson and his family.

   Anglers flood U.S. Highway 95 roadsides near the Rapid River confluence every spring, and the Idaho County Sheriff's Office urges them to use caution when wading into and fishing in the cold and swift water.

   Similar cold-water currents can also be found in the Clearwater River. Spring rains also have created a more sustained runoff this year in both locations.