[ Homepage ]   [ Introduction ]   [ Warning ]   [ Ratings ]   [ Ethics ]   [ Feedback ]   [ Updates ]


Flashflood-Refrigerator Canyon
Zion National Park

Refrigerator Canyon - May 13, 2001

          Flash Floods are a serious hazard in Zion National Park on the Colorado Plateau.  The month with the heaviest precipitation on the Colorado Plateau is August.  The driest month is June.  The monsoon season begins in mid-July and continues through mid-September.  There are many sunny dry days in August, but when heavy rains come, they can turn a dry canyon into a raging torrent.  Use caution at all times and beware of flash floods.

          Thanks to Mike and Earlene Engberg who provided the photographs on this page.  The photographs were taken in Refrigerator Canyon on May 13, 2001 while hiking the Angel's Landing Trail.  This is the same thunderstorm which claimed the life of a ten-year-old boy in a Pine Creek Canyon flashflood.

Flash Flood Fatality
National Park Service, May 13, 2001

          Ten-year-old Michael Munoz of Las Vegas fell to his death on the evening of Sunday, May 13th.  Munoz was hiking on the Canyon Overlook trail with family and friends during a rain and hail storm.  The rain caused flash flooding, including a stream of water that cascaded across the trail. Initial reports are that Munoz and his brother were swept off the trail and over the edge while attempting to cross this stream.  The younger brother got caught on a tree and was rescued, but Munoz fell about 250 feet down a steep slope and another 150 vertical feet in the slot canyon formed by Pine Creek. Park dispatch received the call just after 6 p.m.  The park SAR team was immediately dispatched; the first ranger to arrive, a park medic, rappelled down into the canyon, located the boy, and determined that the fall had been fatal.  Another rainstorm that swept through the area caused additional flash flooding and hampered recovery efforts.  The boy's body was recovered around 11 p.m.

Zion Flashflood Zion Flashflood

Zion FlashfloodHikers Find Body Floating in Virgin River
The Salt Lake Tribune, July 29, 1998

          Hikers in Zion National Park discovered the body of an apparent drowning victim floating along the North Fork of the Virgin River on Monday night.  Officials believe the man had been hiking in the southwest Utah park along the Narrows, a canyon through which the North Fork of the river runs, when he was swept away by swift currents caused by a flash flood Monday afternoon.  About 14 hikers, stranded by the flood, saw the body floating down the river and recovered it Monday evening.  Early Tuesday morning, the group was able to hike out of the area and told a park ranger about the body, said Denny Davies, a park spokesman.  The National Park Service Search and Rescue squad carried the body out Tuesday, but investigators were unable to immediately identify the man.  ``There was no identification on the man, and we haven't heard any reports about a missing person,'' Davies said.  Washington County Sheriff Glenwood Humphries said the body had been badly beaten by rocks in the river.  The man is described as a male in his 40s between 230 and 250 pounds.

          Davies said the North Fork of the Virgin River rose about three feet due to the torrential rains that hit the area Monday afternoon.  He estimated the river flows increased from 110 cubic feet per second to 740 cubic feet per second by 7:30p.m.  The Narrows was named because the canyon narrows to between 20 and 25 feet in some areas.  Park rangers have warned it is dangerous to hike in the area when flood potential is high in July and August.  ``Because the canyon is so narrow, there are not a whole lot of escape routes when there is a flash flood,'' Davies said.  National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Alder said Zion National Park headquarters received .47 inches of rain late Monday afternoon, while Lava Point area, just west of the Narrows, received about .37 inches.

Zion FlashfloodNARROWS VICTIM IDENTIFIED
Search Initiated for Possible 2nd Victim
National Park Service, Issued July 29, 1998

          Zion National Park, Utah. Based on information found in a vehicle parked in Zion Canyon, tentative identification of the body recovered yesterday (July 28) has been made. According to Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Kurt Wright, the victim was 27 year-old Ramsey E. Algan of Long Beach, California.   Zion officials late Tuesday learned from two other hikers that Algan was hiking with a male companion. "Based on this information, we have initiated a search for a possible second victim," said Assistant Superintendent Eddie Lopez.

          The search inside Zion National Park is being coordinated by Acting Chief Ranger David Buccello. "Rocky Mountain Rescue Dogs from Salt Lake City have been called in to aid in the search," said Buccello.  Washington County Sheriff 's Deputy Wright is leading search efforts south of the park based on the chance that a second body might have been transported downstream, outside the park.  Algan's body was pulled from the North Fork of the Virgin River late Monday afternoon after a flash flood hit the Zion Narrows. Cause of death awaits completion of the coroner's autopsy.

          Park teams have broken the search area into five sectors. Plans call for thorough searches of each sector beginning today. "The search dogs can be a great help in searching the debris piles left after such a flood," said Buccello.  As a result of the rainfall in the narrows on Monday, the river gauge at Zion Headquarters increased 7-fold, jumping from a flow of 110 cubic feet per second (CFS) to 740 CFS in a matter of minutes.  Algan's fatality is the first in Zion in 1998.   The park hopes to complete the initial phases of this search by 5:00 p.m. on Thursday.

Zion FlashfloodSecond Body Pulled From Virgin River
The Salt Lake Tribune, July 30, 1998

          Searchers pulled the body of a second California man from the North Fork of the Virgin River in Zion National Park Wednesday where a flash flood apparently swept both men to their deaths.  The body of Ramsey E. Algan, 27, Long Beach, Calif., was located Monday evening by several stranded hikers.  The group was able to hike out the next day and alert park rangers.  Wednesday morning, about 1 1/2 miles upstream, the body of Algan's hiking partner, Paul Garcia, 31, Paramount, Calif., was found by search and rescue workers.  Both men had apparently been hiking along the Narrows, a slot canyon in which the North Fork of the river runs, when they were swept away by swift currents caused by a flash flood Monday afternoon.  Officials had no idea that Algan had a hiking companion until late Tuesday night when officials found the victim's car, said Denny Davies, park spokesman.  ``Rangers found an unlocked car with two wallets inside, which contained both men's identification,'' he said.   Later, other hikers who had been in the Narrows and survived identified Algan from his license photo.  The same hikers also said another man who fit the description of Garcia was with Algan before the rainstorm hit.  A search was initiated Wednesday at 11:20 a.m.  The body was caught in the river's debris, Davies said.  He said the North Fork of the Virgin River rose about 3 feet due to torrential rains Monday afternoon.   He estimated the river flows increased from 110 cubic feet per second (CPS) to 740 CPS later that night.  National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Alder said Zion National Park headquarters received .47 inches of rain late Monday afternoon, while Lava Point area, just west of the Narrows, received about .37 inches.

          The Zion Narrows route is a rugged 16-mile hike in a narrow canyon 800 to 1,000 feet deep.  About half the hike is through the river itself.   Park Managers have cautioned people that they should avoid hiking when flood potential is high, especially during July and August.  Hikers are also strongly urged to get updated weather information in any narrow or slot canyon, particularly when afternoon thunderstorms threaten.  ``We cannot stress too strongly that visitors need to heed these flash flood warnings and plan alternate trips that don't include slot canyons,'' said acting superintendent Eddie Lopez.  These are the first fatalities in Zion National Park this year.  Alder said since 1950, there have been 22 flash flood fatalities in Utah.

Zion Flashflood Warning:
          Don't become a flash flood victim.  While you are in desert canyons you have no way of knowing if there is a storm brewing.  It doesn't have to rain where you are to flood.  Be aware and prepared for bad weather at all time.  Late summer/early fall afternoon thunderstorms are common in Zion National Park.

Related Link:
Kolob Canyon Disaster - Zion National Park


[ Homepage ]   [ Introduction ]   [ Warning ]   [ Ratings ]   [ Ethics ]   [ Feedback ]   [ Updates ]

Copyright 2000-, Climb-Utah.com