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Contact: Bonnie Schwartz, 435-772-0172
Contact: Ron Terry, 435-772-0160
Over the weekend of April 25th and 26th, 2009, Zion National Park rangers performed multiple boating rescues from the Zion Narrows and associated canyons. During the spring snowmelt runoff season, the flow of the North Fork of the Virgin River is high enough to allow for whitewater kayaking, but a backcountry permit is required. An unusually high number of permits were issued for the weekend. Due to the multiple rescues that occurred over the weekend, the Zion Narrows is temporarily closed to whitewater boating.
Five boating parties planned one day trips through the Narrows on April 24th and 25th. Four of the groups spent unintentional nights in the Narrows. Two groups lost boats and required assistance to complete their trips. One kayaker was washed under a log jam but was not trapped by the hazard and was able to safely reach the river bank. His boat was lost downstream. After spending two nights in the Narrows, he was rescued by a passing boating party. Two kayakers attempted to climb out of the Narrows after losing a kayak. They were able to climb 800 feet above the river level before they became cliffed out, unable to climb up or down. They were eventually rescued with the use of a helicopter from Grand Canyon National Park.
Superintendent Jock Whitworth has temporarily closed the Zion Narrows to boating while the cause or causes of the multiple incidents are evaluated. Park rangers are focusing on the reason for a dramatic increase in permit requests and why so many boaters underestimated the difficulty of the route. When the causes are determined and appropriate actions taken, the Narrows will reopen as long as flows remain high enough.
All boaters are encouraged to realistically evaluate the arduous Class V route, utilizing a variety of information sources to plan their trip. Boaters are also reminded to plan for unintended overnight stays and emergencies. Rescue in the Narrows, or in Zion National Park, is never guaranteed. Rescue in the Narrows, if possible at all, will be significantly delayed due to the inherent dangers and risk to rescuer’s safety. Remember, your safety is YOUR responsibility.
For additional information, please contact Ray O’Neil, Plateau District Ranger, at 435-772-7823.