Efforts were under way Sunday evening to rescue 16 Colorado River rafters who apparently were stranded by high water flows in Grand Canyon National Park. Rangers planned to use a helicopter to "short haul" the 16 one-by-one to safety.
Downstream of the national park a massive rescue operation was under way to remove more than 400 campers and residents from Supai Canyon because of flooding spurred by heavy rains and a burst dam.
Grand Canyon officials say that officers, deputies, and rescuers from eight public safety agencies were working together to evacuate the 400-plus campers and residents from Supai Canyon, which is located about 75 air miles west of the Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim.
Thunderstorms late Saturday afternoon and evening in the Northern Arizona high country resulted in partial flooding of Supai Canyon, which is popular destination for hikers and campers due to the presence of majestic water falls in the area. Supai Village is the home of approximately 400 year-round residents.
At 6 this morning Coconino County officials learned that the Redlands Earthen Dam broke, allowing a high volume of water to rush down Cataract Canyon in a westerly direction eventually feeding into Supai Canyon. Heavy flooding in Supai Canyon and the potential for additional flooding has necessitated the evacuation of an undetermined number of campers and approximately 400 full-time residents.
The campers and full-time residents were to be flown to Hilltop by Arizona Department of Public Safety Helicopters and Arizona National Guard Black Hawk Helicopters. Evacuees will be bussed to an American Red Cross shelter located at the Hualapai Tribal Gymnasium in Peach Springs Arizona.
The road into Havasupai is closed at Route 66 and Indian Road 18 leading into Hualapai Hilltop. Residents and campers will not be able to access Supai Village and the Havasupai Indian Reservation at this time.
Meanwhile, also on Saturday the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center received information from Western Rivers Adventures that five unmanned rafts were spotted floating down the Colorado River with personal flotation devices and other supplies still on-board. The crafts belonged to a private boating party of 16 individuals who were located uninjured and stranded on a ledge at the confluence of Havasu Creek and the Colorado River.
Rangers were working this afternoon to move members of the party one at a time via a "Short Haul Rescue Technique" to the other side of the Colorado River where they were to board a helicopter and be flown to the Hualapai Hilltop. From there they were to be bussed to the American Red Cross shelter in Peach Springs, Arizona.
National Park Service employees were also working Sunday to contact members of rafting parties who had not yet reached the confluence, which is located at about river mile 157, in an effort to inform them of the flooding in that area.