GC VILLAGE — The most popular trail leading down into the Grand Canyon could remain closed the rest of this month after a destructive rainstorm in the early morning hours of Aug. 13.
The Bright Angel Trail suffered heavy damage early last week and could be closed another week or more.
After doing assessments of the trail and transcanyon pipeline early last week, National Park Service officials announced it would probably take about three weeks to repair the damage. Trail crews are now removing large boulders and debris along with rebuilding the trail and retaining walls that were damaged.
The trail is closed from the Bright Angel Trailhead on the South Rim down to Indian Garden, a distance of 4.6 miles. NPS officials are strictly enforcing the closure.
Maureen Oltrogge, NPS public affairs officer, said in a news release that most of the damage occurred in an area between the Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse and 2 1/2 miles down the trail. Still, there were several other areas of damage that requires debris removal and trail stabilization.
In the 24-hour period between 5 p.m. Aug. 12 and 5 a.m. Aug. 13, the Flagstaff Weather Service reported that 2.69 inches of rain fell at Grand Canyon with the heaviest rain reported at about 2:12 a.m.
Monsoon season, which can run from July into September, has been known to produce intense rain showers and thunderstorms without warning.
"Travel in drainages and washes during a monsoon rain are particularly hazardous," Oltrogge said. "It is important to stay alert to your surroundings while hiking in the Grand Canyon and to anticipate known weather conditions during the time of the year you are hiking."
The Bright Angel Trail’s last closure because of monsoonal rains occurred in July 1999. In that storm, Two-Mile Corner took a big hit and although it did not rupture, the transcanyon pipeline became exposed in several spots.
There were a few injuries in the 1999 storm and no injuries in the Aug. 13 storm. There have been no deaths from a flash flood on the Bright Angel Trail since August 1963 when a father and his 8-year-old son were killed above Indian Garden.
Oltrogge said no damage was found on the pipeline that carries water from the north slope of the Canyon to the South Rim. Pipeline damage was confined to an alternate line that carries water from the South Rim to Mile-and-a-Half Resthouse and Three-Mile Resthouse.
The last time the pipeline ruptured was in March 1995 and as a result, water rationing went into effect on the South Rim.
The South Kaibab Trail and North Kaibab Trail remain open. The NPS Backcountry Office is not issuing new permits for Indian Garden or Bright Angel campgrounds during the closure period. Hikers who already have campground reservations at Indian Garden or Bright Angel are encouraged to contact the backcountry office to change their permits.
One-day mule trips to Plateau Point have also been cancelled until further notice and overnight mule trips to Phantom Ranch have been rerouted down the South Kaibab Trail.
Family killed at Supai
Although no injuries were reported on the Bright Angel Trail in connection with the storm, flash floods from earlier that weekend killed a 2-year-old boy and his parents near Supai Village.
The family was hiking to Supai Village for the annual Peach Festival, a Havasupai tribal celebration, when the flash floods hit late Friday night. The bodies of Melvin Pesata, Denice Cooper and their son Aaron Pesata of Dulce, N.M., were found about 3 1/2 miles from Supai in Cataract Canyon, a Bureau of Indian Affairs investigator said.
Flash floods in the Supai area have been a problem in the past. During the Peach Festival of 1997, about 400 tourists, along with Supai Village residents, were evacuated by helicopter. There were no deaths in that incident.
There have also been major floods in the area in 1990 and 1993.
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