Flash flooding in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park washes away vehicles, tourists airlifted to safety

Some National Park rangers responding to visitors and helping rescue trapped park goers ended up stranded themselves

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A national park visit rapidly turned into an exercise in survival for visitors after a downpour trapped them. 

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah experienced intense thunderstorms and flash flooding Thursday as heavy rains swept the region. Some park goers ended up stranded and in need of rescue, according to the Wayne County Sheriff's Office.

The intense downpour ultimately proved too much for even some park rangers dispatched to rescue stranded visitors. 

"Park rangers were on scene getting people out of the wash, while doing so, some of the park rangers got stranded in the flood but were able to get to high ground," the sheriff's office reported.

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Vehicles in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park were swept away in flash flooding, Thursday, June 23, 2022.

Vehicles in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park were swept away in flash flooding, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (Utah's Wayne County Sheriff's Office)

"DPS helicopter was able to make contact with people that were stranded there. They were able to hoist them out and brought them to a parking area," the sheriff's office reported. "There were approximately 60 people in that parking lot that almost had to spend the night, however the park rangers worked diligently to clear the roads, making them passible."

Park staff and rescue teams procured lodging at nearby motels for rescued visitors. Luckily, no fatalities were reported, and victims received only minor injuries.

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"Park rangers were able to find lodging and are shuttling people out of the parking area to the surrounding motels. The only injuries reported were minor cuts and lacerations. There are approximately 7-8 disabled vehicles in the flood areas. They will work to get them out conditions permitting," the sheriff concluded.

A truck in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park was swept away in flash flooding, Thursday, June 23, 2022.

A truck in Utah's Capitol Reef National Park was swept away in flash flooding, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (Utah's Wayne County Sheriff's Office)

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Yellowstone National Park is partially reopening after record flooding that damaged homes and wiped out infrastructure. 

Park managers are opening three of the park's five entrances, but there is a system in place to ensure that visitor numbers remain low. Cars with even-numbered last digits on their license plates can enter on even days and those with odd-numbered last numbers can come on odd days.

Officials are still surveying the destruction from the flooding, but work is ongoing to restore and repair roads.