Shannon Castellano and Travis Methvin should spend this weekend visiting the world-famous waterfalls on the Havasupai Tribal Reservation in northern Arizona.
Instead, two friends from San Diego spent Friday night camping on a helipad with 40 other hikers. But sleep could not come as tribal members warned that emergency services helicopters could land at any time during the night.
“Yeah, so we didn’t really sleep,” Castellano said Saturday while driving to a hotel in Sedona. “I’ve really kept one eye and one ear open… You wouldn’t expect that to happen. So, I guess I’m still shocked that I’m not there yet.”
Tourists hoping to reach the waterfall that hides in the reservation went through a harrowing flood instead of a flood evacuation.
The official Havasupai Tribe Tourism Facebook page reported Friday that flooding swept away a bridge at the campground. An unknown number of campers were moved to Supai village, some rescued by helicopter.
The camp ground is in a lower area than Supai village. Some trekkers had to camp in the village. Others who could not reach the village due to heavy rains were forced to camp overnight on the way.
But floodwaters began receding early Saturday morning, according to the tribe’s Facebook post.
Visitors with appropriate permits will be allowed to trek to the village and campground. They will be met by tribal guides, who will help them navigate around the creek water on the back trail to reach the campground.
Tourists will not be allowed to take photos. The back trail leads past sites considered sacred by the tribe.
Meanwhile, the tribe said in its statement that it is “all hands on deck” to build a temporary bridge at the campground.
Tribe spokeswoman Abby Fink referred to the tribe’s Facebook page when reached for comment Saturday.
Methvin and Castellano decided to go by helicopter on Saturday rather than navigate the muddy paths with a guide. Despite losing money on a pre-paid, three-day stay, Methvin says they can still try to salvage their trip. Having received the permit only last month, he feels particularly sad for the trekkers who have met with reservations from 2020.
“They waited three years to get there,” Methvin said. “At least we have the ability to go do something else versus having that whole weekend wasted. It’s useless, but it’s making lemonade for us.”
From Supai to Sedona, many areas of northern Arizona have been devastated by storms this week. The result of snowmelt at high altitudes has caused havoc on highways, access roads and even city streets.
The Havasupai campground has been flooded since the tribe reopened access to its reservation and various majestic blue-green waterfalls last month — for the first time since March 2020. The tribe chose to close to protect its members from the coronavirus. The authorities then decided to extend the closure through last year’s tourism season.
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration initiated by the Havasupai Tribe in October, freeing up funding for flood damage. Due to the floods at that time, many bridges and trees fell down on the roads necessary for the transportation of tourists and goods to Supai village.
Visiting permits are highly coveted. Pre-epidemic, the tribe received an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 visitors per year on its deep reservation west of Grand Canyon National Park. This area can only be reached on foot or by helicopter or by horse or mule. Visitors can either camp or stay in a lodge.
Castellano plans to try to get the permit again later this year if there are cancellations. “We just want to see me in all my glory, not a muddy puddle,” she said.
This story is published from the Wire Agency feed without modification to the text. Only the headline has been changed.