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Stranded Rafters In Grand Canyon National Park Get Unexpected Helicopter Lift


It took a park helicopter three separate trips to rescue three rafters whose boat was stuck in the middle of the Colorado River. NPS photo.

A group of rafters heading down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park received an unexpected helicopter lift when their boat became stranded on a rock garden in the river near Crystal Rapid. This was no quick-and-easy rescue, though, as it took 14 rangers, with air support, more than a day to get the rafters heading back downstream.

According to a release from the park, an 18-foot-long raft became stranded Wednesday morning about 11 miles downstream of Phantom Ranch. The trip leader of the private party told rangers they had worked for about three hours to free the raft, but just couldn't do it and needed some help.

Rangers took to the air to confirm the location of the boat, which had three passengers who couldn't get to shore. Due to the lateness of the hour, rangers decided the best way to get the three ashore was to "short-haul" them via helicopter. In a short-haul operation, individuals, accompanied by a ranger, are dangled beneath a helicopter on a rope. So, one at a time the three were plucked from the middle of the river and ferried to shore, where they were able to stay warm and dry through the night.

On Thursday, park officials said, additional personnel and equipment were flown to a landing zone near the rapid. After the park’s Zodiac rescue boat was inflated and made ready, rangers motored out to the stranded raft, unloaded the remaining gear and then rocked the boat free of the rock garden, park officials said. The raft and gear was then brought to shore to be re-united with the rafters. By 4:30 p.m. Thursday the group was back on its way downstream.


I would appreciate a more complete rendition of the rescue scenario. What methods had the rafters used during those three hours? Was the raft pinned, or wrapped?

The rock garden in Crystal that I am aware of is downstream of the most demanding section of the rapid. Three hours worth of rescue work doesn't seem like enough to have resorted to calling in the heavy machinery and the labor intensive rescue team, but, maybe it was. . . Hard to say from the glossed over account.

I am happy to learn that all is well that ends well, but it would be nice to have learned even more. It might help to avoid a similar scenario in the future.

perhapse a swiftwater course before you go on a long trip would have helped "rescue your stranded boat"

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