UTAH (ABC4) – Multiple national parks are on flash flood watch in Southern Utah and officials with the National Park Service (NPS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are reminding the public: this isn’t just something you can swim out of.
“You got fast-moving cement coming at you with big chunks of boulders and sometimes trunks of trees,” says Allysia Angus, Landscape Architect for BLM.
Rangers say slot canyons are the most dangerous hiking areas for flash floods as they can flood upwards of 30 feet in a matter of minutes.
In Zion National Park, rangers are asking visitors to avoid one of their most popular and dangerous hikes — The Narrows.
“Head somewhere else in the canyon,” advises Jonathan Shafer, Public Relations Specialist for Zion National Park. “There are lots of other choices. The Narrows is probably the place that lots of folks really want to go to but it’s most affected by high water.”
Water can rush through canyons very quickly and even if you don’t see rain right in front of you, slot canyons can still see the effects of flash floods.
“The rains could fall miles and miles away from you and then that water could accumulate and come through the canyon that you are in, still with blue sky above,” warns Angus.
That water also picks up any debris in its path.
“It all gets picked up and churned down the pass that can come down like a wall of water,” says Shafer.
The best way to avoid being stuck in a flash flood? Rangers advise avoiding these areas in the first place and when you’re hiking, marking places with high ground that you can run to.
“Just stay out of that area or try to find high ground until the flooding goes away,” says David Herscher, District Special Affairs Specialist for BLM.
Because once that water comes, getting out in time can be the difference between life or death.
“If in doubt, turn around,” says Herscher. “You don’t want to risk it.”