Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Kayker, poet, teacher dies in river accident

Studebaker, an Idaho icon, dies at 61

Express Staff Writer

Photo courtesy Rick Ardinger William Studebaker

The body of Twin Falls kayaker, poet and author William Studebaker was recovered by the McCall dive team Monday afternoon near Yellow Pine, a small and remote town situated amidst abundant whitewater in the South Fork of the Salmon River drainage.

"He was found about two miles from where they lost sight of him," said McCall Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Dan Smith.

Studebaker, 61, had been missing since Friday, July 4, and was presumed drowned south of Yellow Pine while kayaking a rapid called Flight Simulator, a Class V rapid on the East Fork of the South Fork of the Salmon River, one of the South Fork of the Salmon River's tributaries.

He was seen swimming for shore Friday morning and then floating face down.

"He was just somebody you'd run into in Idaho in different areas, and you just enjoyed boating together," said Gretchen Flint, a Ketchum kayaker. "I took a river rescue course from him down in Twin Falls at CSI."

Flint said that, among the things Studebaker taught her was that a kayaker is responsible for him- or herself. People can help, but a lot of times when you're in a bad situation people can't help.

"You wouldn't choose to swim a class V rapid," she said.

Studebaker was born in Salmon. He is the author of about a dozen books of poetry and nonfiction, including "Short of a Good Promise," a 1999 reminiscence of growing up in the remote Idaho backcountry after World War II and "River Religion," a collection of poetry about whitewater and rivers.

In 2005 he was awarded the Idaho Humanities Council's Outstanding humanist Award.

"We're losing not just a friend but a great resource," said Rick Ardinger, executive director of the council and owner of Limberlost Press, the press that published many of Studebaker's works. "He was quite an eloquent writer, and I always referred to him as the true poet laureate of Idaho. Although he was never formally given the award, he truly deserved it."

Ardinger said Studebaker served on the Idaho Humanities Council and was, simply, a "great, fun guy to be with."

"He was so prolific given all the things he was doing," Ardinger said. "He was teaching a heavier load at the College of Southern Idaho, building a house, raising four kids. He was a bird hunter. And, yet, he still found time to write almost every morning, poetry, memoir, fiction.

"Bill always said that if you're going to write you're going to write. Time isn't the issue. A writer just writes."

Studebaker was a faculty member in the department of English and philosophy at the Twin Falls campus of Idaho State University.

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