A LEISURELY paddle on a river west of Coffs Harbour turned into a nightmare for a trio of canoeists late on Friday.
The three men, two aged 22 and one 29, went out on Friday morning to paddle down a 15-kilometre stretch of the Bo Bo River west of Ulong but when they failed to return home that night the alarm was raised.
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter was dispatched from Lismore at first light on Saturday morning but after unsuccessfully scouring the river the crew diverted to Coffs Harbour to refuel.
It was while the helicopter was tracking low over the Little Nymboida River that the three men were found, waving from a ledge.
A helicopter spokesman said the trio had missed their exit point at Frog Hollow and as darkness fell they found themselves in a deep ravine.
He said they told him they scaled a near-vertical rock face and then tried to start a fire.
“They had 20 matches and they were old, but they finally managed to light some kindling with the very last match,” the helicopter spokesman said.
“They huddled together on the ledge without any food or survival gear and only a space blanket to keep them warm.”
Paramedics were winched into the ravine and after assessing the men were unharmed they were winched out and flown to Dorrigo where ambulance crews were standing by.
It is believed two of the men were from Coffs Harbour and the third was from Armidale.