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.