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."