Two Men Killed While Attempting To Raft Through "The Narrows" Of Zion National Park

Though incredibly beautiful with hanging gardens, grottoes, and soaring sandstone walls, "The Narrows" of Zion National Park can be deadly at high water levels. Photo copyright QT Luong, www.terragalleria.com/parks, used with permission.

The bodies of two men who possibly had intended to build a log raft to float the Virgin River through "The Narrows" of Zion National Park were recovered Monday.

One body was spotted by a park visitor in the river near the north end of Zion Canyon at the Gateway to Zion Narrows about 9 a.m. Monday. The second was found by searchers farther downstream shortly before 2 p.m., park spokesman Ron Terry said. Pending positive notification, authorities believe the victims were two Nevada men in their 20s.

On Sunday park rangers were notified by a family member that two men who had planned to float the "Narrows" overdue from their trip. While a search-and-rescue operation was launched Sunday, it was suspended Monday after the second body was recovered from the Virgin River, Mr. Terry said.

The Narrows is one of the park's most popular attractions. A slot canyon 2,000 feet deep in places, only 20-30 feet wide in others, and which runs 16 miles, The Narrows is a popular draw for hikers and, on occasion, white-water aficionados. It is also one of the most dangerous journeys in Zion, as even during the dry season hikers can find themselves faced with cold water to wade, walk, or swim through, and flash floods spawned far upstream can scour the canyon with deadly flows.

The Virgin River was running fairly high through the weekend. On Saturday park rangers closed The Narrows to hikers due to the high water, although "at those levels we do issue permits for whitewater craft," the park spokesman said.

The two men reported missing "did not check in with rangers first," said Mr. Terry, adding that, "it is believed from information that we have that they were building a raft from logs."

Both bodies were turned over to the Washington County medical examiner.

The last drowning reported in The Narrows was back in 1998 when two hikers, one 27, the other 31, were overcome by a flash-flood, according to the park spokesman.

Comments

Wow! I hiked the Narrows in June, 1991. I had to swim the last section and it was scary.
Danny
www.hikertohiker.com

I hiked the entire length of it in '97 and it was completely tame. The only possible thing in there that could hurt someone is if there was a flash flood, but it doesn't sound like there was one. Strange!

Hiking the narrows at the right time of year can find it very tame. But in general, during mid August thru early September (thunderstorms leading to flash floods) and late March thru mid May (very high, very rapid and freezing water due to snow melt) will not find a very hospitable environment. It's a shame whenever anyone loses out to mother nature and I'm sure we'll soon find out about the 'back country' experience, or lack there of, these two individuals possessed.

A raft built of logs. Springtime runoff from a near-record snowpack. High water trying to squeeze between narrow canyon walls forced into rollers with immense hydraulic power. Cold water. Apparently no wet-suits or dry-suits. Hypothermia. These guys were doomed before they started.

There's nothing strange about it, Anon. It's just another form of natural selection. Or maybe a suicide pact . . . . .

I knew one of these young men and he was very adventurous and lived life to the fullest!! I am saddened by this and my thoughts and prayers go out to thier families! They were so young!

My question would be how they got that far up the river to raft back down, W/O permits or equipment. Two different rivers Spring and Fall.

I just read that these guys were filming this in order to get on Man vs Wild