2 dead, more than a dozen rescued after canyon flash flooding catches hikers off guard in Utah

The Buckskin Gulch is a tributary of the Paria River, which eventually flows into the Colorado River. Utah's Bureau of Land Management said Buckskin Gulch, Wire Pass and Paria Canyon can experience flash flooding.

KANE COUNTY, Utah – A series of storm systems that have dropped several inches of rain across the West has caused some canyons to fill up with water triggering life-threatening flash flooding, keeping authorities busy with rescues.

The Kane County Sheriff's Office reports at least two people have died and at least 16 others have been rescued over the last week near the Utah-Arizona border.

The Bureau of Land Management reports popular hiking sites such as Buckskin Gulch, Wire Pass and Paria Canyon have been subject to flash flooding, catching some visitors off guard.

"The Kane County Sheriff's Office and Bureau of Land Management strongly discourage visitors from continuing hikes in the slot canyons until the danger passes. Due to weather forecasts for the area in the coming days, it is highly recommended that hikers continue to check weather and road conditions before hiking on BLM-managed lands," the agency posted in a public notice.


Lieutenant Allen Alldredge with the Kane County Sheriff's Office said he never recalls a time with so much moisture and rescues during the late winter.

"The problem is we've had an extremely wet winter for what we're used to. And Friday and Saturday of last week, we had a pretty good rainstorm on top just raining for days," said Alldredge. "Our numbers are off the charts this year as far as our moisture."

Data from the FOX Forecast Center showed the region experiencing between 110-200% of average snowfall during the winter, with lower elevations seeing above-normal rainfall.

Locals say the canyons usually flood during the summer monsoon season, but to see the terrain be inundated so early in the year is rather unusual.

"Typically, our rescue calls are for injuries, with broken legs, sprained ankles, broken arms, things like that is more typical of our rather than what we've done this week with more weather-related incidents," said Alldredge.

The Bureau of Land Management requires permits for hikers, and the sheriff's office encourages all groups to have a GPS device that is waterproof and capable of withstanding the extremes, in case a rescue is needed.


Deputies believe a group of men from Florida who were caught in a flash flood and swift currents in Buckskin Gulch over the weekend did not have specialized devices to alert first responders of the need for assistance.

A search by a helicopter with infrared equipment found only one of the hikers alive, after the group failed to reach their destination.

"We encourage everyone to be safe as they recreate in the many beautiful areas of Kane County. As this week has shown, that beauty can change to tragedy in an instant. Careful preparation and understanding our complex weather are essential in your trip planning," a Kane County Sheriff's Office news release stated.