Tourists hoping to see world famous Arizona Falls forced out by flood | Travel
Shannon Castellano and Travis Methvin should have spent this weekend on the Havasupai Tribe reservation in northern Arizona viewing world-famous waterfalls.
Instead, two friends from San Diego camped out on a helipad Friday night with 40 other hikers. But sleep was elusive as tribal members warned that an emergency services helicopter could potentially land at any time during the night.
“Yeah, so we really didn’t sleep,” Castellano said Saturday while driving to a hotel in Sedona. “I really just kept one eye open and one ear open … You don’t expect anything like this to happen. So, I guess I’m still in shock that I’m not there right now.”
Instead tourists hoping to reach the breathtaking waterfalls on the reservation had to wade through flood evacuations.
The official Havasupai Tribe Tourism Facebook page reported Friday that floods had swept away a bridge at the campground. An unknown number of campers were taken to Supai Village, some of whom were rescued by helicopter.
The camp ground is in a lower area than Supai village. Some hikers had to camp in the village. Others who were unable to reach the village due to high water were forced to stay overnight on a footpath.
But according to the tribe’s Facebook post, the floodwaters had started receding since Saturday morning.
Visitors with the proper permits will be allowed to hike into the village and campground. They will be met by Aboriginal guides who will help them navigate around the waters of the bay on the back trail to get to the campground.
Tourists will not be allowed to take photographs. The trail leads past sites considered sacred by the tribe.
Meanwhile, the tribe said in its statement that it has “all hands on deck” to build a temporary bridge at the campground.
Abby Fink, a spokeswoman for the tribe, referred to the tribe’s Facebook page when reached for comment on Saturday.
Methvin and Castellano decided to go by helicopter on Saturday rather than navigate the muddy trails with a guide. Despite losing money on the pre-paid, three-day stay, Methvin says they can still try to save on their trip. Having only received permits last month, he feels particularly sad for the hikers he met with reservations from 2020.
Methvin said, “They waited three years to get there.” “At least we have the ability to do something else instead of wasting that whole weekend. It sucks, but it’s making lemonade for us.”
From Supai to Sedona, several areas of northern Arizona have been struck by tornadoes this week. The resulting snow combined with melting snow at higher altitudes has wreaked havoc on highways, access roads and even city streets.
The Havasupai Campground, reopened last month by the tribe for the first time since March 2020 on its reservation and various majestic blue-green waterfalls, flooded. The tribe chose to shut down to protect its members from the coronavirus. The authorities then decided to close through last year’s tourist season.
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration initiated by the Havasupai tribe that frees up funding for damage caused by the October flood. At that time the flood destroyed many bridges and downed trees on the trails needed to transport tourists and goods.
Permits to travel are highly coveted. Pre-pandemic, the tribe received an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 visitors per year to their reservation in a deep gorge west of Grand Canyon National Park. The area can only be reached on foot or by helicopter or by horse or mule ride. Visitors can either camp or stay in lodges.
Castellano already plans to try to get the permit again later this year in case the cancellations happen. “We just want to see the Eye in all its glory, not fall muddy,” he said.
The text of this story is published from a wire agency feed without any modification. Only the headline has been changed.