A group of rafters heading down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park received an unexpected helicopter lift when their boat became stranded on a rock garden in the river near Crystal Rapid. This was no quick-and-easy rescue, though, as it took 14 rangers, with air support, more than a day to get the rafters heading back downstream.
According to a release from the park, an 18-foot-long raft became stranded Wednesday morning about 11 miles downstream of Phantom Ranch. The trip leader of the private party told rangers they had worked for about three hours to free the raft, but just couldn't do it and needed some help.
Rangers took to the air to confirm the location of the boat, which had three passengers who couldn't get to shore. Due to the lateness of the hour, rangers decided the best way to get the three ashore was to "short-haul" them via helicopter. In a short-haul operation, individuals, accompanied by a ranger, are dangled beneath a helicopter on a rope. So, one at a time the three were plucked from the middle of the river and ferried to shore, where they were able to stay warm and dry through the night.
On Thursday, park officials said, additional personnel and equipment were flown to a landing zone near the rapid. After the park’s Zodiac rescue boat was inflated and made ready, rangers motored out to the stranded raft, unloaded the remaining gear and then rocked the boat free of the rock garden, park officials said. The raft and gear was then brought to shore to be re-united with the rafters. By 4:30 p.m. Thursday the group was back on its way downstream.