Hiking Bob

Hiking Bob: Hero park rangers honored

News  /  Hiking Bob

Pulling 11 people out of the water when their boat capsized in a storm.

Swimming in 62-degree water to rescue a child who was tossed from an overturned kayak.

Rescuing two women and their two dogs when their paddleboards were blown offshore in high winds.

Performing CPR on the victim of a bike crash.

Rendering aid to a victim of a gunshot wound.

Responding to all corners of the state as part of an elite marine rescue and recovery team.

Park Rangers from Pueblo Lake State Park were honored for these heroics at the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission meeting in Colorado Springs this past Wednesday.

From left: Acting CPW Director Heather Dugan, Ranger Joe Portteus, Ranger Matthew Taylor, Ranger Jasmine Wolcott, Ranger Seth Herndon (seasonal), Ranger Kristopher Gard, Park Manager Joseph Stadterman, CPW Commission Chair Carrie Hauser, DNR Executive Director Dan Gibbs and Acting Southeast Region Manager April Estep.

In a presentation, Acting CPW Southeast Regional Manager April Estep told the commission of how in the early evening hours of May 29, 2022, Rangers Joseph Portteus and Seth Herndon responded to a report of a boat that had capsized at Lake Pueblo State Park. Braving winds of up to 35 mph and white-capped 5-foot waves, the rangers raced across the reservoir and found a dozen people in the water. Some were clinging to the overturned boat, others were floating away and children in the water were screaming for help. Somehow, the two rangers, in a rocking boat, were able to reach over the rail and rescue 11 of the 12 boaters, including a child who was unresponsive when pulled out of the water and needed to be immediately revived. Although one person died in the accident, Estep pointed out that the death toll would have been much higher if not for the actions of Portteus and Herndon.

Estep then told the commission that on the afternoon of Oct. 23, 2022, Rangers Kristopher Gard, Portteus and Josh Kloesheim responded to a call of overturned kayaks. At that time, the water was a frigid 62 degrees, and the wind was blowing with 35-mph gusts, creating rough water conditions. As Portteus and Kloesheim responded by boat, Gard responded by truck, and when he arrived a few minutes later, observed several people in the water. After running 200 yards to the shore, Gard shed his uniform and jumped into the water. Although the high waves prevented him from seeing the victims, he located a 3-year-old boy, whom he then brought back to shore. Once on land, Gard performed CPR on the child, reviving him just as an ambulance arrived. Gard then carried the child 200 yards to the waiting ambulance, where he was later taken by medical helicopter to a hospital in Colorado Springs. Although two adults perished in the accident, Estep told the commission that the toll would have been three if not for the actions of Gard.

Estep went on to tell the commission about an incident that occurred on July 10, 2022. On that day, witnesses called for help after seeing two women paddleboarding, accompanied by their two dogs, being blown about 250 yards off shore by high winds. The witnesses observed that the paddleboarders were struggling and that one was in the 103-foot deep, 75-degree water, and appeared to be unable to get back onto her paddleboard. Rangers Portteus and Jasmine Wolcott responded by boat to the incident and rescued both the women and their dogs. Estep also credited the use of Personal Floatation Devices by the paddleboarders for their survival.

Estep told the commissioners of an incident that occurred on land on June 19, 2022. On that day, Ranger Matt Taylor responded to a bike crash on one of the park’s trails. The 60-year-old cyclist had sustained a serious head injury and upon Taylors arrival, was not breathing and was turning blue. Taylor administered CPR and revived the man, who was then turned over to EMS.  On another occasion, Taylor provided care to a man who had sustained a gunshot wound to the head until EMS arrived.

Estep also credited Park Manager Joe Stadterman for his role in the CPW’s statewide Marine Evidence Recovery Team.  The team responds at a moment’s notice to incidents throughout Colorado, searching for missing people in the state’s lakes and waterways. Estep pointed out that besides managing the state’s most-visited state park, Stadterman has also been a part of 60 MERT recoveries, bringing closure for the families of the victims.

Estep noted that there were 41 water-related deaths in Colorado in 2022, a record for the state. Not all were drownings — some were due to hypothermia, cardiac arrest or trauma. They occurred in private and public waters, with eight of those deaths happening in Lake Pueblo. She observed that the death toll would have been considerably higher if not for the actions of these rangers.

The rangers were presented with CPW “With Appreciation” coins as recognition for their heroics.

On a personal note, as a volunteer at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, I worked with Ranger Gard while he was atCMSP, and now with Ranger Wolcott, who transferred to CMSP last year.  I have observed their dedication to their jobs. That they and the other rangers performed these heroics does not surprise me, but it does earn my respect.

It should earn yours, too.

Fishers Peak State Park earlier this week released an updated map of the park’s trails and announced a change to one of the trails.

The Lower Lone Cub Trail, which is open to hikers and cyclists, had previously been designated as uphill only for cyclists. Cyclists can now use the trail for both uphill and downhill travel.

Fishers Peak trail map

A reminder that the “Outdoor Pikes Peak Initiative” listening sessions will be held next week in Fremont, Teller and El Paso counties. This is your chance to tell land managers what you like, dislike or want to see happen with our public recreation lands. Go to ppora.org/oppi for more information, including a schedule.

Be Good. Do Good Things. Leave No Trace.


If so, we'd love for you to share it with your friends and followers! Sharing this article can help spread valuable information and spark important conversations. Simply click a share button below!