Havasupai Village Threatened as Dam Breaks in the Grand Canyon

Wait, there's a dam in the Grand Canyon? Why don't we just leave these rivers alone!!!!


US rescue crews have airlifted some 170 people to safety from a remote village in the Grand Canyon after a dam burst following days of heavy rain.

Grand Canyon National Park spokeswoman Maureen Oltrogge said water from the Redlands Dam had caused flooding in a side canyon containing Supai village.

The area, accessible only by foot, on horseback or by air, is home to 400 members of the Havasupai tribe.

Most people have been accounted for but searches will resume later on Monday.

Well, at least the dam is not on the Colorado River, but rather, on a side creek.

The Redlands dam is on Havasu Creek. The creek feeds the Colorado River, which runs through the Grand Canyon.

Satellite image showing Grand Canyon and Supai

After the dam burst, people were flown out of the Supai area and then taken on buses to Peach Springs, about 60 miles (96km) south-west of Supai.

"We were basically stuck up the canyon without our rafts," Cedar Hemmings, who was among those flown out, told the Associated Press.

Read the rest here: BBC

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I am pretty sure that that dam has been there since before white man ever arrived there. The Havasupai indians have been living in that canyon for centuries.

I am pretty sure that that dam has been there since before white man ever arrived there. The Havasupai indians have been living in that canyon for centuries.

From Wikipedia;

The Havasu Baaja (meaning the-people-of-the-blue-green-waters), or more commonly the Havasupai, are a Native American tribe located in the northwestern part of the American state of Arizona. The tribe is well-known for being the only permanent inhabitants in the Grand Canyon, where they have lived for over 800 years. It also holds the distinction of being one of the only places left in America whose mail is still delivered by mule,[1] the other being Phantom Ranch.[2] But the main "claim-to-fame" for the Tribe is its richly colored waters and its awe-inspiring waterfalls, both of which have made this small community become a bustling tourist hub that attracts thousands of people every year.

@Matti K.: Maybe a little.

@Amar: Just because they've lived there for 800 years doesn't mean they haven't seen their share of floods. Look at New Orleans and northwestern Minnesota for modern examples of the same behaviour.

Who said they had never seen floods? I was only trying to point out that it is not always "we" (westerners / anglos / whiteys) who cannot leave the rivers alone. (wo)man has been 'conquering' nature for a long time with no complaints from most.

I'm just saying they didn't necessarily build a dam in order to live there. They may have just dealt with the changing river depth as a fact of life.

I'm pretty sure the Redlands earthen dam was constructed in the last century with bulldozers. I've been to Supai and have hiked Havasu Canyon - while there are surely ancient cultural traditions maintained by the Havasupai, today's irrigation infrastructure in the canyon is most assuredly not ancient.

The Havasupai have electricty, refrigeration, tourist lodging and internet access too but that doesn't mean they've been using these technologies for 800 years.

Yes, flash flooding is a fact of life in that area, which is one reason why the ancestral Havasupai would move annually between the canyon and the rim. It's only in the last 93 years that the tribe has been restricted to the canyon, making them more reliant on agriculture and tourism.

... On the other hand, us white folk are definitely not the only ones to screw with nature. It's a good thing the federal government came along and regulated hunting or we wouldn't have any buffalo left ...

Yes, Ben, that is correct. Once the plains Native Americans got (introduced) horses and (introduced) guns .... especially because of hte guns ... the buffalo were doomed. Because Indians don't kill a thousand buffalo a month, but a gun can! (Oh, and the guns were used to kill the wolves who might have helped.)

Wow, from a tragic flooding event to an anti-gun rant. You, sir, are a master of your craft... I was thinking about the whole rounding up and herding off cliffs rather than the shooting with guns part of the buffalo killin'. Though I think that required horses...

You just answered a few of the questions that I had. I couldn't figure out whether it was just one dam or two.

The flooding in Supai and down canyon was not necessarily caused by the breaching of a road causeway/dam modified to become a much smaller water holding structure at the head of Cataract Creek. The watershed draining into Cataract Creek covers about 1 million hectares. Considerable rain fell prior to August 16/17, then it rained a lot more.

I have been in at least one Arizona storm where the soil surface has flowed five to ten centimeters of water within two or three minutes in storms so heavy driving was impossible. Fifteen minutes down the road, in bright sun, a seventy centimeter tall, 50 meter wide wall of water poured down the main drainage of the 800 hectare watershed.

The US Geological Survey has an excellent report, "When Blue Waters Turn Red" with a flood history and excellent photos of Havasu Canyon and its floods from the 1890's to 1993. The beauty of this place makes it one of the best photo documented locations in Arizona.

By Chris English (not verified) on 04 Sep 2008 #permalink