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Body, Presumed To Be That Of Missing Backpacker, Found in Grand Canyon National Park


The lure of a remote, and surprising lush, area of Grand Canyon National Park has led to the death of a 20-year-old backpacker. Photo of a section of the Deer Creek area by Conor Watkins And J. David Rogers, Missouri University of Science and Technology.

A body, believed to be that of a missing 20-year-old backpacker, was found Saturday in a rugged section of Grand Canyon National Park. Rangers came across the body, thought to be that of Bryce Gillies, about 9:30 a.m. in the Bonita Creek drainage on the North Rim of the park.

Mr. Gillies, a Northern Arizona University student, was reported missing by his father last Tuesday evening after failing to return from a trip into the Deer Creek drainage. Initial efforts by investigators located the car of the backpacker at the Bill Hall Trailhead on the North Rim.

With no backcountry permit to work from and no knowledge of Mr. Gillies' specific plans, searchers began covering a large area from the Deer Creek drainage across Surprise Valley to the Tapeats Creek drainage and down to the river. On Saturday rescue personnel narrowed their search to the Bonita Creek drainage and surrounding area based on the discovery of personal items, including a backpack, in that vicinity.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., a search team, moving up Bonita Creek from its confluence with the Colorado River, found a body at the top of a 100-foot pour-off. The body was located less than one-half mile from the river confluence. It was to be recovered by helicopter via long-line operation and transferred to the Coconino County Medical Examiner.

This multi-day search involved approximately 50 NPS personnel and volunteers from Grand Canyon National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Zion National Park.

The Deer Creek area can be extremely demanding to reach, but those who make the trek find "booming streams of crystalline water (that) emerge from mysterious caves to transform the harsh desert of the inner canyon into absurdly beautiful green oasis replete with the music of falling water and cool pools," according to the park's description of the area. However, the park also notes that "trailhead access can be difficult, sometimes impossible, and the approach march is long, hot and dry...but for those making the journey these destinations represent something close to canyon perfection."


Could Bryce have tried to use Bonita Creek as a short cut to the river ? Perhaps low on water in Surprise Valley and rather than go on to Thunder River he elected to descend into the Bonita drainage. Did anyone learn where the backpack was found ? Was it upstream from the 100 foot pour off ? The artical said the NPS reached the body by ascending Bonita Creek.

would you please READ the post BEFORE you make inaccurate comments about it. there have been quite a few incidents this summer, that probably have cost millions. most of them unnecessary because somebody was doing something that they shouldn't have been. it just MIGHT be he wasn't experienced and that could have been a factor. neither one of us know, THAT is a fact. whatever happened he was an unfortunate soul.

Considering where he was hiking, the Deer Creek drainage, I am certain this individual knew the risks and was an experienced canyon hiker even to attempt it - just getting to the trail head is an adventure - it is not one of the corridor trails. Having hiked the area several times, I am sure he was experienced and familiar and was an unfortunate victim of some accident - not like the out of shape yahoos that try to hike a corridor trail to the river and back in August with a pair Vans and a bottle of Evian. It is the part of the park services job to recover bodies. The staff involved in the search would have been doing something else if they were not looking for this hiker, so to say that it cost a million dollars is not accurate - they didn't hire on 200 search and rescue workers just to look for this unfortunate sole. Probably the only additional cost was likely the helicopter transport and a body bag. My intent was not to be callous, I am sure Bryce died doing what he loved most in one of the most amazing and remote wildernesses on the planet. In some respects, we should all be so lucky when our time comes.

As a former hiking guide in GCNP, I would guess that he died of dehydration and/or heat exhaustion (purely conjecture on my part). All too often people head off into the canyon on solo hikes and lose their way. In the summer it's only a matter of hours before the situation becomes life-threatening as water is scarce in the park and canyon temperatures soar into triple digits. And no, there's really no way for the park service to monitor all of the trailheads to ensure preparedness.

On a personal note, I graduated from NAU in 2007 and worked at the Learning Assistance Centers where Mr. Gillies was employed. I also grew up about 5 miles from McLean, VA, where he resided. As one who has hiked off into the canyon by himself several times, I can't help but think that it easily could have been me. While I don't still do that (not in AZ, anyway), I hope that others can learn from his mistake(s). If you absolutely must go hiking by yourself, plan your route well and let someone know your itinerary.

I have a hard time finding anything in your comment that has anything to do with what i said. i DO NOT want to take away anybodys freedoms. i just don't want to pay for foolish actions of others. if you don't agree with that,fine. write nps a check. you are talking about taking away my freedom to keep my money and not have it wasted.

My condolances to his family. This is the very reason that back country permits are required. It also is a reason that you should never hike in the back country alone. One of the problems with this country is that no one seems to be responsible for their own actions. If you disobey the rules and no not use common sense, then you are responsible- no one else, period. We cannot expect NPS to be responsible for everything. They make reasonable rules, many that I personally disagree with, for the safety of citizens and long term benefit of our national lands. The bottom line is that you are still responsible to obey the rules and use common sense.


If you smoke in bed and set fire to your house do the firemen have the right to not put out the fire because you were careless? Should we have groups of firemen knocking on doors whenever they want to see if you’re smoking in bed? The tax dollars collected from me and not used to put out any fires at my house should be returned?

You’re talking about taking away freedoms in an era of government intervention into everything, doesn’t work, neither does the pay for rescue idea, those costs have already been paid for by tax dollars.

Just imagine going to a park and being told you look to stupid to hike and it would be too expensive to rescue you if you do.

Common sense would be a good thing for anybody to take, in short supply these days. i understand some people might not agree with me, but at some point you need to be responsible for your own actions. after thinking this over i would post signs at all trailheads saying if you do not have a permit or have not notified nps of your plans, we will not look for you.

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