Falling Into the Grand Canyon Isn't Always Fatal

Grand Canyon rangers used a litter to haul a woman who fell 50 feet off the South Rim back to safety. NPS photo by Shannon Miller.

A 38-year-old woman who fell 50 feet off the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park survived the ordeal without life-threatening injuries and was lifted back to the rim by rangers.

The unidentified woman fell from the rim near Mather Point about 4 p.m. Thursday. Park visitors who witnessed the fall quickly called the Grand Canyon Regional Communications Center, which dispatched rangers to the site. Upon arriving at the scene, park rangers found the woman about a quarter-mile west of Mather Point. She was approximately 50 feet below the rim.

Rescue personnel rappelled down to the woman and secured her so that they could assess her injuries. Once she was stable enough to move, the woman was packaged in a litter, and park staff used a rope haul system to pull her up to the rim. She was back on the rim by 6:30 p.m.

The woman was transported by Classic Lifeguard Aeromedical Service to the Flagstaff Medical Center where she is being treated for unidentified non-life-threatening injuries.

The National Park Service encourages all visitors to enjoy Grand Canyon’s spectacular views from the safety of the paved paths and developed overlooks, and to always use extreme caution when hiking near or approaching the edge.


How much did that cost the taxpayers? When someone has to use the rescue personnel do they get a ticket or a fine? The Park Service goes to great lengths to provide safe and attractive overlooks. Sure the view is more spectacular closer to the edge, but it is not so pretty on the way down.

Wow. I am just glad she is ok! Sure, she should have been more careful toward the edge, but how many taxpayer dollars that were spent and/or if a ticket was issued should be the least of anyone's concerns. Maybe R Scofield needs to think about his priorities.

I might have gone with a different title for this article. Tourists are already a little too comfortable near the edge of the Canyon.

Steven M. Bumgardner

Maybe everyone should just stay home. They might fall in the canyon, or get in a car wreck, and then cost taxpayers money. It's just not worth it! Let's sell the land to developers, or build dams to generate power, or dig up the minerals and start getting a return on investment from these "National Parks" instead of just providing places where generations of people can connect with their natural and cultural heritage. After all, even though millions of people visit the South Rim each year, it's just not worth the cost of rescuing the one or two who were moved by the power of the place to get a little closer than they should have.

I'm kind of with Scofield on this one IF the woman strayed off the marked trails deliberately. There are always accidents--animals fall, ground gives way, etc. But I too have no sympathy if someone steps over the safety area as if the warniing signs weren't even there. That's death, or injury, by stupid. "Deaths in Yellowstone" is a great book with some hair-raising stories of incredibly stupid people who think they're in Disneyland instead of a natioal park. But the story doesn't say why the woman fell, so let's give her the benefit of the doubt until we know more. If it was accident by stupid, then hell yeah she ought to reimburse the park service. If it wasn't, then thank God she lived.

I'm not worried about what the cost to tax payers was....I'm just glad she survived the ordeal. Those rescue workers are trained and ready for just such an event and tax dollars ensure that those resources are there for you too, God forbid you should ever need them. My hat goes off to those brave souls that were there to help her and my heart goes out to the woman and her family. It must've given them quite a scare and hopefully a renewed appreciation for life.

I seemed to have touched a nerve. I am not suggesting that anyone stay home in lew of enjoying the great out doors and the grand canyon should be seen by everyone before they die. But with our money bailing out this company and that company and a whole slew of us out of work or in threat of us being out of work, lets use what little sense we have and stay within the bounds the experts dictate as a safe distance and not bring more problems on ourselves and others. I too am glad she wasn't hurt seriously or killed.

I'm pretty sure the cost of NPS search and rescue operations is picked up by the individual--just like an ambulance ride?

A good arguement but flawed from the point if one or two people were moved by the power of the place to cross the fence of a electrical sub-station and climb one of the transformers causing the loss of life and loss of power to hundreds it would be punishable because it is trespassing on private property. While the Grand Canyon is National land the boundaries are there just the same for our protection. You have the privilege of being able to cross those boundaries because of your job. You have the skill and knowledge of how to cross those boundaries safely. Like the employee of the power company. Most of us don't have that privilege.


In most cases, the NPS picks up the tab. It's extremely rare for SAR targets to be handed a bill in the park system.

I was at the grand canyon last summer and there were plenty of idiots that just had to get a better, although fool hardy view of the canyon. These people were not at places that where the drop was a couple of feet, but a few hundred feet at best. A few had there young kids out there as well. There are plenty of spectacular places that can be seen behind the safety fence. Their were Park Rangers around, but nothing was really being done about it. Kudos to R. Scofield

Steven M. Bumgardner

If you've ever been to the Grand Canyon, you'll notice that MOST of the South Rim doesn't have rock walls or fences, and that in many places the trails come very close to the edge. Around the developed areas, there are all kinds of walls, fences, and some signs warning of dangers, but most of the park is full of natural hazards. Although we often hear stories like this one, we usually don't focus on how FEW people actually get hurt in our National Parks, and how many millions have a safe, enjoyable visit. And, yes, I've read "Death in the Grand Canyon" and "Death in Yosemite", and both are fascinating, page-turning books that may actually save your life.

And as far as the cost to taxpayers are concerned, the type of rescue that I see in the photograph cost very little, and most rescue personnel are protection rangers who are already on duty. Things get expensive when helicopters and large search groups are required, but a 50 foot verticle rescue, not so much.

According to the Grand Canyon's FAQ, visitors are charged for their own rescue. However, in some public documents on the topic, it appears the park does not wish to charge for the work of rangers already on duty - it is the fee for the ambulance and the emergency medical services that is sent to the victim, who may or may not have insurance.

Seems fair, although I think the person who falls should be issued a bill for some part of the ranger work as well.

There are lots of warning signs on the rim, maybe there should also be some new signs below the rim: "DANGER! GROUND APPROACHING RAPIDLY"