Skip to comments.NJ Boy Scouts Rescued From Grand Canyon
Posted on 08/24/2008 5:59:03 PM PDT by Coleus
When the six Boy Scouts from suburban Maplewood, N.J., went camping in the Grand Canyon, they expected an adventure they would long talk about, but they did not expect to be clinging to treetops and praying to survive a flash flood. The six Scouts and three adult leaders were eventually guided to safety by American Indians who live in the area, and plucked out of the wilderness by a Black Hawk helicopter. By the time they flew away, the 10-yard-wide canyon next to a stream where they had been camping had become a 300-yard-wide raging river.
The scouts and their leaders were among more than 200 people rescued from the flash floods that followed heavy rains and the failure of a dam this past weekend. Rescuers were still combing the vast national park for 11 campers who were either washed away, are still in the park, or have simply gone home and are unaware that people are searching for them. For the Jersey scouts, however, the flood was a test of their motto to "Be Prepared." Through a harrowing night and the next day, the Scouts earned their badges, said Kevin Muench, who was along on the trip with two of his sons, Colin, 13, and Tommy, 11.
"It was part of their preparedness," said Muench, a dentist who has reveled in wilderness camping since his teens. "The Scouts, when they needed to do something, they did it. When they needed to hike, they really hiked." The troop had been camping for about a week when they set up their tents next to a stream in the narrow canyon. A ranger came by Saturday and told them to move to higher ground "because floodwaters are coming," Muench said.
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They scampered up trees for safety, rode piggyback across rising waters and scaled the side of a cliff in the Grand Canyon using just a rope. But the highlight of a daring rescue effort for a group of Maplewood Boy Scouts was the Blackhawk helicopter that plucked them from the canyon and brought them to safety. "If I had to ride the helicopter, I would do it over and over and over again," said Ryan Morey, 12 at a news conference on the steps of Maplewood Town Hall. The six boys and three adult leaders of Troop 21 returned to New Jersey early Thursday morning after spending nearly two weeks out West. Looking bleary-eyed and overwhelmed by the news reporters camped in front of them, the boys, ages 11 to 14, took the microphone to share their account of the rescue.
The Scouts were among the 400 who were rescued from the Supai Canyon after the Redlands Earthen Dam gave way to heavy rainfall in northwest Arizona. "At nighttime, it was really, really scary because you couldn't see stuff," said Avery Wilson, 13. "I have stories to tell my children." Troop 21 is a fixture in Maplewood, dating to 1937. Every year, the troop has a high adventure trip to promote leadership and interpersonal skills. This year, the boys camped in Bryce and Zion national parks in Utah before heading to the Grand Canyon. They arrived there last Friday, hiking 10 miles to Havasu Falls, where they stayed for one night. On Saturday, they moved to higher ground after a park ranger warned them about flash flooding in the area, said Kevin Muench, 49, one of the adult leaders on the trip.
They moved to another campground some 50 yards away and went to bed early anticipating another long day of hiking. But at 1 a.m., they were awakened by other campers and told to gather their belongings because the water was rising. A group of Eagle Scouts from Nevada built a campfire. They sat in darkness, praying and listening to the roar of water and breaking trees. Around 8 a.m., troop leader Dug Nevius waded through the water to dry land to chase after a dog that wandered off. While he was there, he said he ran into four members of the Havasupai tribe who were rescuing others in the area. Nevius brought the Native Americans back to the campground where the Scouts were waiting. But the waters were rising quickly, dimming their hopes of a safe escape.
When they looked back, Nevius said, the water had crested and washed out the island they had been standing on minutes before. "Had we stayed a lot longer, we might've been killed," Nevius said. After spending seven hours in a horse pasture waiting to be flown out of the Supai area, they finally boarded a Blackhawk helicopter. That's when they cheered, Nevius said. Before heading home, they spent a few days at a resort in Las Vegas, hanging out by the pool. Colin Muench, 13, said the rescue was scary but also fun. "I probably learned a lot of stuff like how to survive a real dangerous situation," he said. "It was exciting because nothing like this has happened to me before." Asked what he learned from the experience, Kyle Lai said, "Don't mess with Mother Nature."
Previous coverage from The Star-Ledger:
8/18/2008: N.J. Scouts evacuated after dam collapses
8/19/2008: As canyon water rose, a rope led Scouts out
Great Scout story! Boys love it when they really get into trouble.
Strange - in the picture there is a scout called “Avery Walker” and in the article there is a scout called “Avery Wilson”. Are there, in reality, two Avery’s? Could be, but I suspect a typo somewhere. Great story though.
Great story to tell their kids and grandkids some day. Glad they’re safe.
The unsung heroes in this.
As I recall, they live for that stuff.
Like a redneck with a pick-up and a chain, they are hoping to come upon a car wreck.
(And yes, I have pilled a camaro out of a tree)
Exactly! Almost-disasters are what make Boy Scouting fun (or so I understand from my husband and sons and their friends).
Hiking the Grand Canyon. Indian guides. Blackhawk helicopter rescue. Now that’s an adventure. (Glad it all ended well).
No - this was the BOY SCOUTS - not the INDIAN GUIDES...
I just couldn’t resist! ;-)
I’m actually glad to read this article. This is where I had my greatest summer camp as a lad in the BSA! I spent a week at the HavaSupai campsite.
LOL, that does seem to be a favorite past-time around here doesn’t it?
The local law enforcement really gets annoyed when a “car in the ditch” is called in. Good ‘ole boys start drinking and run their truck in the ditch on Saturday night and a local comes along and yanks them out of the ditch before the law gets there to cite them for DUI.
Several years ago during the blizzard of ‘93 we had record snowfall. We aren’t used to snow. Anyway, my husband decided that since he couldn’t get the truck out he’d take the tractor and chain out to pull people out of the ditches. He forgot where the ditches were though (they were hidden under snow) and ran that big 100hp tractor off in a ditch less than 300 feet from the house. A neighbor with a bigger tractor had to come along and get him out. I think it’s a man thing. :-)
“the 10-yard-wide canyon next to a stream where they had been camping”
I thought the BS taught common sense?
Not a place where I would have set up camp.
It was probably an established wilderness camping spot. To camp down in the Grand Canyon, wilderness permits are required so they can control the amount of people down there as it's a very special ecosystem. Also, there are strict regulations about where you can camp, esp. when you have a group of people. (I've camped down there twice at Bright Angel Campground-really a neat experience.)
LOL - slid my snowplow into a ditch that way once.
Just days after my family went to the Canyon. I know one of my boys must have broken that dam. They look way to innocent when they tell me they didn’t.
Well, if not fun, at least interesting and memorable.
Our troop made boats one year, and then in the next year we took those boats down the Sacramento river, from the end of the rapids at Redding, to the public launch ramp in Sacramento. A much longer trip than any of us had anticipated.
The boats were wooden kayak-looking things, with just enough room for one person in each. We used our duffel bags as seat cushions. The first thing that happened was the loss of our supply boat. Everyone had just assumed that we could just tie it to the stern of one of the other boats, since we were essentially just floating along with the current, but on the third day it got sideways to a gravel bar in a fast moving part of the river, and was broken to bits. Then we had to salvage the grub, and distribute it to all the rest of the boats.
Immediately thereafter, we all recognized that it should have been tied between two of the boats, but hindsight is usually 20-20.
If it had been Indian guides, they would not likely have survived. Indian guides is more like a school field trip than a real camping trip.