BASS LAKE – It is not unusual for the Sheriff’s Office to get a call that someone needs rescuing from the Angel Falls area above Bass Lake.
It’s a popular destination for hikers and those looking for a beautiful spot to swim in the creek, but it can also be very dangerous.
Today at about 12:30 p.m., a call came in to 911 that a woman had injured her leg and was unable to walk out on her own. She was on the east side of the creek about 1,500 feet up the Willow Creek Trail from Road 274, and another 250 feet down off the main trail.
The 45-year-old Fresno resident was hiking with her husband when they decided to veer off the Forest Service maintained route and onto an offshoot of the Willow Creek Trail. She lost her footing and fell several feet, injuring her right ankle. She didn’t know if it was broken.
When deputies arrived and evaluated her, they determined that her condition was not critical enough to warrant a helicopter rescue, but they would need assistance in carrying her down the mountain.
Search & Rescue volunteers, along with boat patrol, SAR and patrol deputies, and Madera County Fire responded to the scene. The Sierra Hotshots, whose response to a fire had been canceled while they were en route, were also made available to assist — a crucial dose of manpower due to the steep, rocky terrain and the distance they needed to transport their patient.
The entire operation from dispatch to ambulance took about an hour and forty-five minutes.
Madera County Sheriff Sergeant Joey Wilder says that about 85 percent of the swiftwater rope rescues they must perform each summer are at Angel Falls.
“It’s a high-risk location,” says Wilder, “People start going off the trail and getting into the water, and a lot can go bad very quickly. The water is very inviting, but please stay on the trails.”
The frequency of response to this area has the Sheriff’s Office dialed in on what they need to do, and how to go about it. In some locations at certain waterfalls, they have permanent anchors in the rock, having had to perform so many rescues there – averaging about seven or eight each summer. Fortunately, this one wasn’t life-threatening for the injured party.
“Though beautiful, the forest can be dangerous and accidents happen,” says Madera County Sheriff Commander Tyson Pogue. “We are lucky to have such a dedicated group of deputies and Search and Rescue volunteers who are able to quickly respond and expertly get the person help.”
Cmdr. Pogue says his office sincerely appreciates the help from their allied agency partners who are always there to assist in these situations, specifically Cal Fire, Madera County Fire, Sierra Ambulance, CHP and the Sierra National Forest.
(Photos courtesy of Madera County Sheriff’s Office).