ZIONS NATIONAL PARK; Sept. 19, 1961:
Flash Flood Takes 3 Lives
ZIONS NATIONAL PARK; Sept. 17, 2015:
Flash Flood Takes 12 Lives
But life never halts, and cruel as it seems, goes relentlessly on . . .
Fifty-four years ago, and almost to the very day, a flood swept Zion Narrows, and I remember for my sister Fern’s husband, Walter J. Scott, was Leader of the 22 people who formed that 1961 group, which also included their daughter, Adene.
They didn’t hike all in one bunch, but groups of them were scattered along the pathway by that narrow canyon stream, and were ‘held together’ by Walt, who hiked back and forth among them. It was great.
But Life often has its own plans and they were never again to meet as a full group, because before too long, the stream water had risen to cover their path, their shoe tops, and then, before they could even try to adjust to wet feet, a cascading wall of water came upon them, bringing tons of pine needles, and just as swiftly, came tree limbs, rocks, and debris of all sorts.
Wet feet were soon unimportant, for by then they were struggling for their lives, and they knew it. As the water relentlessly kept rising , they were forced up slopes and over or around rocks they would never before even considered tackling, but there was no choice, for they were facing dangers they had never dreamed or planned.
Their lives were on the line and so they did what normally would have been impossible. Flood refugees can’t be choosers and that is why they spent the rest of that day and that night on a hillside, safe, but yet, oh, how close to danger. It had not been part of that day’s plan.
And, with no instant communication, it was not until the next day that they began to hear what had happened to others on their hike. And families in their homes, knew that a flash flood had hit the canyon where their sons and daughters were, but there was no way of knowing if the hikers were safe, or had been taken along with the flood.
Yes, the world immediately knew of a deadly flood in Utah’s beautiful, but oh, so narrow canyon where, in such a flood, their only safety was getting to higher ground. Such a problem, for a part of the lure of that hike is of its dangerous beauty. The flood sent no warning, and getting away from that raging water, was their only chance of survival..
It was like demons had planned the event, for all that day, that night, and into the next day, was pure hell for the hikers, as well as those who waited in homes, as my sister Fern did in her Murray home. She, along with other families of those hikers did not know if their loved ones lived or had died. My sister could have lost her husband and daughter, or one of them, or if both had survived. It was a bad time, back in 1961 for hikers or families.
Every hiker saw a story unfold, and from their higher position could at times catch glimpses of the stream, and a few of them saw Walt, Leader of the entire group, fighting to help two young men to safety. With his strength, he might have been able to save himself but those young hikers were in his keeping. His struggles. however, proved to be useless and all three of them became victims of the water’s fury.
I was a writer for the Murray Eagle/Green Sheet newspapers and was trying to write my column, “Out My Window” and it was a dark ‘window’ that day. for one part of me tried to be an ‘observer’ and write the facts, while, another part of me was a participant. along with family members for I knew Walt and Adene were in a life or death situation.
There was nothing anyone could to do but wait and pray, and it was long hours before Fern knew that Walt her husband had died, but Adene her daughter, survived.
As survivors of such horrors have ever found, Fern also learned that life never halts, and cruel as it seems, goes relentlessly on. It’s a difficult, but a well trodden pathway. and as the families of those 54 years ago learned, the families of those today will also sorrowfully learn.
People who died that day 54 years ago were Walter J. Scott, Leader, Steven Gene Florence, and Paul Ray Nicholson. Survivors from this area, were John Bangerter, Bonnie Darger, Lila Fielden, Katheryn Grim, Margaret McIntyre, Lynda McIntyre, and Adene Scott, daughter of rhe Leader. Among other survivors were hikers from Park City and out of State.