Pecos River Journal – The Trucks

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If you read about our search for the missing kayaks, taken from us by a flash flood on the lower Pecos River last June, then you’ll remember the group of campers from Ozona whose four new pick-up trucks were swept away by the same flood. In one Pecos River Journal entry (The Graveyard), we wrote about returning to Lewis Canyon and our hike down to see those trucks, which looked like they’d been spit out by a tornado. Shortly after that visit, I spoke to the owner of one of those truck’s, a gentleman named Dwight Childress; it was Dwight’s family fishing lease on the Pecos that the group was camping on the morning of the flood. He told me then that Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the insurance companies were in the middle of a dispute over the financial responsibility for removing the trucks from the river.

It appears TPWD won that dispute, because we received news that the trucks were finally pulled from the river valley, and that the insurance companies picked up the tab. I remember first seeing where the trucks ended up and thinking it would take a cargo helicopter to lift them out of the steep-canyon river valley, but I was wrong. It turns out, all it took was a bulldozer to drag the mangled trucks out of river and up the canyon, using the same steep jeep trail that we used to drive down into the river during our search.

According to Dwight, who I spoke to again shortly after the trucks were removed, the biggest issue was not getting the trucks up out of the river—the bulldozers are apparently powerful, and agile, enough to drag the trucks up the steep desert terrain. Instead it was the logistics of getting them off the Continental Ranch once up and out of the river canyon, said Dwight, especially given the rugged jeep trail from the river to the main ranch road. I remember crossing several rocky draws that cut across that trail, and despite being in a 4-wheel drive jeep, it got a little sporty at times. It’s hard to imagine getting the heavy equipment hauler that close to the river, but they did it.

The cost to remove each truck was $22,000, so for a total of $88,000 all four of them were dragged from the river bed. Only one of the trucks was actually still under water, and it proved to be the most difficult because the river had left it filled with river rock. Most of that rock had to be shoveled by hand from the truck bed and crew cab before the bulldozer could pull it out of the river, proving that even bulldozers have their limits on the lower Pecos.

Miles Gibbs, who manages the Continental Ranch, sent us these photos of the trucks being removed from the river canyon. I’ve interspersed them with some photos we took when we went down there in search of our kayaks, which by the way, are still missing nine months later.

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Looking down from the top of Lewis Canyon, the bulldozer drags one of the white trucks from its resting spot after the flood. (Photo courtesy of Miles Gibbs)

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I snapped this photo the day Dan and I went back down to the river looking for a place to put in and take out our canoe. Having lost our kayaks in the same flood that destroyed the four trucks, we’d planned to use a canoe to search for our missing kayaks. I snapped this photo almost two months after the flood.

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Of the four trucks, this one was the least damaged but still totaled by the flood. (Photo courtesy of Miles Gibbs)

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We snapped this photo during our return for the search. The red GMC would prove to be the most difficult to remove because it was actually still in the river bed, and because of the river rocks that filled both the truck bed as well as the crew cab.

 

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After several hours of removing the river rock by hand, the red truck is pulled out of the river by the bulldozer. (Photo courtesy of Miles Gibbs)

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The red GMC truck is finally free of the river’s grasp. Now it needs to be dragged several hundred yards upriver to the same jeep trail that brought it down to the river in the first place. (Photo courtesy of Miles Gibbs)

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The trucks were staged up at the top of Lewis Canyon where a wrecker would haul them individually to a heavy equipment hauler waiting on one of the trails closer to the ranch house. The closer the trail got to the river, the more difficult it was to traverse. (Photo courtesy of Miles Gibbs)

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(Photo courtesy of Miles Gibbs)

 

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It took a full day to remove the three white trucks. The red GMC wasn’t removed until the next day, along with the bulldozer. Mission accomplished. (Photo courtesy of Miles Gibbs)

Postscript: to read the original three part story of the flood that destroyed these trucks and almost got us, click here: Back to the Pecos:- Part 1 – Spills

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  3 comments for “Pecos River Journal – The Trucks

  1. Mike
    April 8, 2015 at 5:30 AM

    Enjoybany stories about Pecos or Devil’s River area, sorry those people lost pickups and other gear, but what a story to be able to tell later

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