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SAR in Burro Wash

Capitol Reef National Park

National Park News

On the evening of September 4th, the park received a 911 call notifying them of an overdue party. Two adults and three juveniles, ages 10 to 12, failed to exit Burro Wash by nightfall.  Burro Wash is a premier slot-canyon destination, but the upper and lower thirds of the wash are difficult to traverse owing to 18-inch wide narrows with standing water and numerous chock stones.  The middle third of the wash requires technical climbing gear to navigate pour-offs. Passing through the entirety of Burro Wash would typically require a full day, but the group did not depart the trailhead until 2 p.m.  Adding to concerns, many areas of the park experienced heavy rain and flash flooding during the afternoon. A park ranger and a park biologist entered the lower portion of the wash just after midnight, proceeding as far as safely possible in darkness. They hiked through cold water, which reached depths in excess of five feet, but did not locate the party.  Another ranger secured the upper portion of the wash. By 4 a.m., rescuers were certain that members of the party were in the middle of the wash, but still hadn¬ít contacted them or determined their condition. A technical rescue squad from Zion NP and a short-haul helicopter from Grand Canyon NP were placed on standby, and the fixed-wing aircraft from Glen Canyon NRA arrived at Capitol Reef shortly after dawn. The pilot and park biologist conducted numerous sweeps on the wash, but were initially unsuccessful in spotting the party.  Shortly after 9 a.m., members of the party was seen hiking down the wash and they exited it a short time later. They were not initially visible to observers in the plane because they were passing through a deep, narrow portion of the wash. All five were tired and hungry, but in good health. They had continued hiking the previous evening until about 9 p.m., when they determined that further travel in the darkness was unsafe. They then built a fire and wrapped garbage bags around their legs to stay warm.


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