Havasupai Changes

One year after a devastating flood hit this world-renowned Grand Canyon destination, the Havasupai tribe has reopened its spectacular falls and idyllic pools to visitors – even as restoration work continues.

For 10 months after the deluge of Aug. 16-17, 2008, the campground was closed to outsiders as tribal members and volunteers worked to repair millions of dollars in damage, fortify stream banks and install early-warning systems.

The flash flood, spawned by monsoon storms in Arizona’s Coconino Plateau country, gushed into Grand Canyon tributaries like a liquid bulldozer. It swallowed hiking trails, undermined a cemetery and killed hundreds of statuesque shade trees in the campground.

About 250 tourists in the campground were warned in the afternoon of a possible flood, but no one anticipated the brown wave that struck around midnight.

Some climbed trees. Others sloshed to high ground.

Miraculously, there were no deaths or serious injuries. Helicopters plucked campers from safe perches as they marveled at nature’s destructive power.

Greg Fisk, supervisory hydrological technician with the U.S. Geological Survey, said more than 6 inches of rainfall upstream sent a roiling mass through normally dry channels. Near Supai, Havasu Creek’s flow surged more than ninetyfold, from a normal 65 cubic feet per second, to 6,000.

While there have been much larger inundations, Fisk said, canyon conditions made this one hit with devastating force. Floodwaters carved a new streambed, toppled magnificent ash and cottonwood trees, uprooted bridges, and tossed RV-sized boulders aside.

The first icon, known as 50-Foot Falls, became 75 feet high.

A detour left the famed Navajo Falls high and dry but created a new landmark with no official name. Known variously as Rock Falls, Emerald Falls or Unnamed Falls.

Further downstream, Havasu Falls now features a single spout of whitewater rather than the veiled spray or double flume captured in thousands of photographs over the past century.

Finally, a network of mini lagoons was blown away at the base of Mooney Falls, which at 200 feet looms higher than Niagara Falls.

Source: by Dennis Wagner – Aug. 16, 2009 12:00 AM, The Arizona Republic

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