You can survive all the hard whitewater in the world, but sometimes fate deals out different cards. Such is the case with the Aug. 2 death of longtime kayaker and South American river exploring legend Josh Lowry, who died at age 61 after falling from a cliff on Oregon’s Rogue River..
Lowry reportedly fell off a 50-foot cliff to the rocky bed of the Deschutes River on Aug. 2, possibly scouting a line through Benham Falls below.
Lowry was the first person to run Mexico’s classic Agua Azul and Chile’s Rio Baker, as well as other classics throughout Central and South America. A crown jewel was his 1999 exploration of the challenging Rio Pascua in Patagonia. He also could well own the first descent of Chile’s famed Futaleufu River.
“Josh may have done first descent of Futaleufu and did it solo,” says Kurt Casey, author of Peruwhitewater.com who did a lot of exploratory boating with Lowry in Chile, including a few tours in his “ambulance” shuttle vehicle. “Back in ’85 the road was built going up the Futa. Josh was there wdoing an exploratory road trip in Patagonia and drove up the river, put in and ran it solo…
“Right at same time, Lars Holbek and his group also drove up and ran river and claimed a first D. Josh never made a big deal about who ran it first, but my hunch is that he did and on top of that solo in old school boat. Even if he was not first he had no knowledge of the run or what he was getting into.”
That sums up his entire attitude about kayaking, and he continued his exploring ways through the ’90s.
“His Chilean road trips of 1994 (with John Foss and Clay Wright) and 1995 (with Arnd Schaeftlein, Bernd Sommer, Manu Arnu, Olli Grau, and Dave Kashinski) included many other exploratories in lands that were unknown to the whitewater world, the stuff of dreams,” writes paddling friend Tyler Williams on funhogpress.com.
Lowry also made regular pilgrimages back through the states, often spending time in Paddling Life’s hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colo. He’d come back to lead trips down Grand Canyon, Middle Fork of the Salmon, and other whitewater classics, always returning to his rafting company in Futaleufu, Chile, one of his favorite paddling spots where he would effortlessly navigate its toughest rapids as if dancing with them.
“He once told me, ‘I am a minimalist, both in life and paddling,’” says Williams. “This was the flow of Josh Lowry’s life, in harmony with the seasons, in tune with the river.”
For a profile on Lowry, CLICK HERE
For Williams’ eulogy, CLICK HERE