We want to state that Flash Floods are no joke. If you take away anything from this collection of information. It would be, that you take with you the awareness of this danger.
Sure they don’t happen all the time. But every so often the Havasu Falls area has been hit by a Flash Flood. Some so powerful they completely alter the terrain. Sometimes destroying entire waterfalls, or travertine pools.
Be aware Flash Floods can occur any time of the year. When visiting the Supai/Havasu area you should always pay attention to the weather. The monsoon season (July through the end of September) brings a higher likelihood of flash flooding.
For the most part you will be in a narrow canyon that is basically the drainage channel of a vast area. Remember that!
Remember you are on your own down there!
Along with that precaution about paying attention to the weather, also “camp smart”! This means you need to select a “safe smart” campsite. Pre-think escape routes at all times while hiking and setting up camp.
Don’t be stupid, or should I say… unaware? Never camp right next to the stream, or at stream level. You will likely not have time to react to any short time frame warning.
Don’t camp too near canyon walls where waterfalls may suddenly appear during heavy rains. Often trees or boulders start raining down during heavy downpours.
Those not used to hiking or living in the desert southwest, may not realize you can have clear blue sky overhead while it is raining hard a short distance from you. This canyon is downhill from a vast area that can become a collection point that created fast moving water. And lots of it!
The desert soil doesn’t absorb rain like an unaware person may surmise. In fact the soil acts more like concrete or pavement. A hard rain simple starts flowing, accumulating, and trying to find the easiest way downhill.
At times a wall of water, debris, and mud can be on you in minutes. Moving faster than you can run. Carrying the mass to knock you down with little effort. Entangling you in the debris, with no way to swim.
Look around you as you hike. For the most part you will be in a narrow deep slotted canyon. Its been carved deep as the results of these seasonal flash floods. These floods are no joke. Don’t think it can’t happen. They can easily become deadly in seconds and with little to no warning.
Once you are in the campground (facing down stream) your safest camping is river left and on high ground. The main trail side of the stream. To do otherwise, at a minimum, you may end up being called an idiot rookie camper. Of course that is better than being called dead! Which is a real possibility.
Many people visit the area with no camping experience. No experience in the desert. No experience with flash flooding. Don’t listen to naysayers that blow off these precautions. Sure they are correct….if it doesn’t rain hard.
There are some great looking spots on the other side of the stream, and they are tempting. Should a flash flood occur you may not have time to cross the stream and take the trail to safety and higher ground. There is some high ground on river right, but no trail out. There is also a dry falls about mid campground, on the far side of the stream. That can become a raging torrent. On the far side of the stream you could easily be stranded if you managed to survive flood waters.
Should a flash flood occur at night in the dark, it greatly increases the risk to your safety. There have been times the campground has been wiped clean. Picnic tables and such, flushed over the falls. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a ride over Mooney Falls tangled up in my tent.
You are on your own down there. Don’t think someone is going to come running through the campground and wake you up, or warn you.
The weather service may issue warnings. But there is no way to actually predict they will actually happen. So don’t expect any of the locals to actually provide any type of warning. These storm cells suddenly appear and there is often no time for warnings during an actual Flash Flood.
Flash floods can happen in minutes, with water so deep its over your head, moving with forces strong enough to uproot trees.
If you are hiking narrow parts of the canyon and hear strange noises, pay attention and stay alert. Always be thinking of an escape route. If you see water coming down the trail, start thinking fast and get to high ground and hopefully some type of escape. Remember this water can become very deep, and be moving very fast.
Search youtube for some of the video’s during flash flooding. You don’t have a whole lot of time once the signs are there. That is why you should always have this in the back of your mind while hiking and setting up camp.
Always think about “what would I do if it happened right now?” Or what if I had 30 seconds to react, to make it out alive?”
Would you want to be in your sleeping bag. Inside your tent. At normal stream level. In the dark? Having seconds to wake up, get out, and move to higher ground? All in the dark? That’s if you even realize its coming!
During flooding, and flash flooding, and actually any hard rain. The beautiful turquoise waters can turn red or brown from the surrounding rock colors. Even that drastic change is something to see from a safe vantage point.
I can only love the people that will laugh this off. I see them every trip I make. Most of the time they are lucky and have no clue. The potential of what might be.
The worst of mother nature, can come knocking on the door unannounced.
July 2018 Flash Flood that caused serious destruction and closed the area to visitors/tourists. Some reports indicate the water was 7 feet deep. This involved rescues during the flood. Closing of the trail to hike out to the trail head. All tourists/visitors had to be helicoptered out. (Send us your video link for this one)
July 2013 Flash Flood (minor to some) Youtube about 3 minutes into the video
July 14, 2012 Flash flood occurred on the trail between the Trail Head and the village. Youtube Video