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Front Page » September 20, 2005 » Local News » Flash flood on the Swell
Published 4,172 days ago

Flash flood on the Swell

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Staff Writer

ATV riders experience life on the trail in Emery County

High water in North Coal Wash leads to a long day for ATV riders.

On Sept. 8, a cloudburst created flash flooding in the San Rafael Swell below Ferron. Twelve visitors to the Arapeen ATV Jamboree along with their four local guides were stranded until around midnight.

Mark H Williams was leading the group, Don Wilberg was the guide in the center, and Ted Farmer and Gordon Ehler were riding sweep for the group of ATV enthusiasts. "The trip was just beautiful and the weather did not look to be a problem, and we made it down Fix-it Pass OK," said Williams. "At Slipper Arch, it began to sprinkle and we stopped and everyone put on their rain gear. We rode for approximately six miles before the water began to build up on the trail. Before we could make it out of the canyon, water from the cloudburst to the West of us began to run off the slick rock and flood the washes.

"We rode for the next 7.2 miles in at least one and a half feet of water in North Coal Wash. We knew we had to get out of the canyon before more water came, we were trying to beat the flood," said Williams.

The group proceeded along the trail, and each of the out of town visitors was in awe of the beauty of the water cascading from the rock walls of the canyons. Some of the waterfalls created by the heavy rain were dropping 100-150 feet into the bottom of the canyon. This was a rarely seen sight.

When the group neared the junction of the ATV trail and the road into Belleview Flats, where their vehicles were parked, the water rushing down Salt Wash was more than four feet deep and they could not cross to gain access to their trucks. Several of the riders gathered wood and built a fire to try to dry out and warm up from the trip out of Coal Wash.

Waterfalls cascade from the rocks and create a spectacular sight for the ATV riders.

After an hour and a half waiting for the rushing water to recede, Farmer tied a rope around his waist while four or five of the men held onto him. He waded into the rushing water to test the depth, and when the level reached his belt buckle he knew it was to deep and the group would have to continue to wait it out. After several hours, he tried it again and determined that it would be safe for the riders to cross. So the group proceeded to the vehicles, loaded up and began the trip back to Ferron.

When they had gone about a quarter mile, Williams stopped them and informed them that a culvert had washed out from the rains, and there was an eight foot deep drop off in the middle of the road. They unloaded their machines, made their way around the wash-out, and continued to ride the ATVs all the way back to Ferron.

Phyllis Nietzert, of Grand Junction, Colo. said, "It was a nice ride until it started to sprinkle. Then it became wet and muddy very quickly. Our guides were all very knowledgeable about the area and the conditions, and they did everything they could to get us out of there unharmed."

Harvie Abner, a 73 year old retiree from Hamilton, Ohio had come in for the Jamboree. "It was not a good ride, it was a great ride. I came to ride and enjoy the scenery, and I was not going to let a little rain keep me from having a good time. From here I'm going to Moab to ride some more, and then I'm going on to the Rocky Mountain Jamboree in Richfield."

With the use of cell phones, the group was able to contact those waiting in town for their return. As soon as he was notified, Emery County Commissioner Gary Kofford alerted the county road crew and then drove to the area. The road crew came, brought in equipment, and they were beginning repairs to the road before the riders returned to Ferron. Commissioner Kofford remained at the scene until all the visitors and guides were safe and accounted for.

Those repairs were completed on Friday, and the vehicles that were abandoned during the flood have all been safely retrieved.

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