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Utah Travel Headlines Blog

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Zion Narrows Closed to Kayakers

The Narrows in Zion National Park is a famous hiking/canyoneering route during the summer, when people wade up or down the gorge following the North Fork of the Virgin River.

During spring, when water flows are high from snowmelt, some people kayak through the narrow canyon. But this year kayaking has proven to be dangerous, for reasons not yet clear. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that 4 of 5 groups kayaking the Narrows over the weekend had problems.

As a result, park officials have closed the route to kayakers. As the high water wanes, probably in late May or early June, the gorge will be open for hiking as normal. No problems are anticipated for the summer season.

Below are excerpts from the Tribune article.

Zion National Park officials reported that four of five boating groups with backcountry permits and plans for one-day trips ended up spending one or more nights in the Narrows because of high water this weekend.

Two of the parties lost boats and needed help to get out of the canyon. One kayaker was washed under a log jam, but escaped the craft, which was lost downstream. He spent two nights in the Narrows before being rescued by another boating group.

Two stranded kayakers tried to climb out of the Narrows, but were only able to climb 800 feet above the river. They were eventually rescued when a helicopter from Grand Canyon National Park was called.

Jock Whitworth, superintendent of Zion, temporarily closed the Narrows to boating while the cause of the mishaps is evaluated to determine "why so many boaters underestimated the difficulty of the route," said a news release from the national park. "Rescue in the Narrows, or in Zion National Park, is never guaranteed. Rescue in the Narrows, if possible at all, will be significantly delayed due to the inherent dangers and risk to rescuers' safety."

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