Close Call of the Week: Hikers Escape A Havasupai Flash Flood

Havasu Falls' beauty has made them a staple of FOMO-inducing Instagram pics. But in an instant, they can turn into a dangerous deluge.

Photo: Laura Hedien via Getty Images

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Snagging a permit to hike to Havasu Falls is challenging enough. But because it’s an area prone to flash floods, hikers sometimes have to evacuate the exclusive, sacred area in an instant and get to higher ground

That’s what happened around 9 a.m. on March 17 when rangers told campers that they had 20 minutes to pack up camp and hike to the top of Havasu Falls. Flash floods were coming, and they would soon wash out the bridge to the campsite. Campers usually stay between Havasu and Mooney falls, which are completely surrounded by canyon walls that are hundreds of feet high. Just an hour later, all the bridges to town and out of the area were either flooded or washed away, leaving hikers stranded.

Campers Deanna and Ian, who are currently spending the year traveling in a converted school bus and sharing their adventures on Instagram, were two of those evacuees and filmed their experience. In the video, you can see the usually turquoise Havasupai Falls dirtied with mud and the rushing floods washing out the trail.

Around 4 p.m., the stranded hikers were told they needed to climb up the side of the canyon to get out, where local Havasupai tribe members arrived with ATVs and drove them to Supai Village—an area higher in elevation than the campground and unaffected by the floods. From there, the hikers waited for helicopters arriving that night and the next morning. 

By the next morning, flood waters started receding, and on March 20, Havasupai Tribe Tourism posted on Facebook that the tribe was “hard at work repairing/replacing the foot bridges.” Deanna mentions in her video caption “how amazing the local tribe members of the Supai Village were in helping us evacuate.”  

Flash floods are a regular and destructive occurrence in this area. In December 2022, President Joe Biden approved funds for the Havasupai Tribe to help repair damages from a flood in October of that year. At that time, flooding had destroyed several bridges and downed trees in the middle of crucial trails.

Stay Safe: If you find yourself getting caught in an area that’s flooding quickly, get to higher ground fast. Even if there’s not active rain near you, you need to move because the floodwaters could rush toward you from other areas. After the flood, don’t return to the area until officials give the all clear.

From 2023