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Utah Travel Headlines

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

High Stream Flows Inhabit Some Backcountry Recreation

Winter’s snowpack is now melting quickly in the high country, sending runoff cascading down streams and washes. It is producing flood danger in some areas but no major highways are threatened.

The flood danger is most intense in northern Utah, in the Cache Valley, in Weber Canyon and in some areas in Salt Lake County. No main roads are closed at this time but it is possible some may be closed in the future if water levels increase.

People traveling or recreating in the backcountry need to be aware of the flood danger and take precautions. Some washes that are normally dry are now flooded with high, fast, cold water. Never drive into a flooded area.

Some hiking trails cross streams and washes. Normally that is no big deal but there may be danger in spots until runoff ends. Use common sense.

This news article describes the flood risk to date.

In Zion National Park, a group trying to hike The Subway became stranded because water levels were higher than they could handle. The Subway is a great adventure hike during summer, but extremely dangerous when stream flows are high. The rescue is actually quite an interesting story that generated considerable news coverage. Below is the headline and then excerpts from this article.

Stranded hikers reach safety with help from Air Force

Three stranded hikers in Zion National Park made their way to safety Tuesday with some help from other canyoneering park visitors.

Officials first started a search Sunday for a couple with a permit for a one-day trip whose car was found at a trailhead. A Salt Lake City man who headed out Monday afternoon was also reported missing after he told his wife to alert park officials if she didn't hear from him by 2 a.m.

That man, David Balkcom, 37, had spent Monday night stuck on a ledge in a thunderstorm after trying to rappel down a waterfall, according to BYU student Cliff Chandler, who was part of a group of six hikers that had started the hike Tuesday morning and found Balkcom around noon. Chandler said they reached Balkcom from above, pulled him to safety and brought him with them.

A short time later, the group met the couple, Evgenia Buzulukova, 25, of Roy, and Jonathon Wilson, 28, of Portland, Ore., who Chandler said had built a fire but were stuck in the canyon, out of food and exhausted. With the help of an experienced canyon guide, the group set up rope lines to assist the three less-experienced hikers down the canyon.

Personnel in two Blackhawk helicopters from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada spotted the group not far from the trailhead with the help of night- vision equipment. Two airmen were lowered down with supplies to assist the group in hiking out, (Zion spokesman David) Eaker said.

"When you go into wilderness, when you go into backcountry, you are saying that you want to accept nature on its own terms," he said. "You need to be ready for the conditions you're going to encounter."

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