Motor Rig Stranded In Unkar Rapid

September, 2003. Grand Canyon National Park

A Wilderness River Expeditions 36 foot motorized tour boat ran aground in Unkar Rapid on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon Thursday afternoon. The boat was part of a two-boat trip of 41 people. National Park Service technical rescue personnel used a helicopter to short-haul 6 people off the stranded raft late yesterday afternoon. This type of rescue involves lifting two people at a time off the boat by a 100-foot line from the helicopter. Rescue personnel acknowledge this is the most dangerous type of rescue the park performs. Darkness halted the rescue operation of the remaining boat occupants around 7:00PM. The remaining passengers spent last night on the boat. The short-haul operation resumed this morning.

The river trip was scheduled to exchange passengers at Phantom Ranch before noon today. Concessions passengers hiking into the canyon to join the river trip are being told they can expect the arrival of the boats late this afternoon.

Flows from Glen Canyon Dam have been between 5,000 and 8,000 cubic feet per second. This flow is considered very low for motorized tour boat travel through the park. During low water flows in 2000, the NPS conducted 3 short-haul operations for motorized tour boats stranded in the rivers rapids. Drought conditions in the Colorado River Basin continue, with Powell Reservoir above Glen Canyon Dam at 50% capacity.

It's been a busy period over the last 30 days for National Park Rescue teams responding to commercial river tip calls for evacuations. There have been two rescues of passengers with broken arms, a number of rescues of passengers with Norwalk Virus-like gastrointestinal distress, and one passenger sustained a de-gloving injury to his hand when he caught his wedding ring on boat rigging as he jumped off the boat into the river.