Someone finally got the best of Quartzite Falls, one of the toughest rapids in North America. They blew it up.
Most boaters had to portage around the dangerous
class-six rapid in Arizona's Salt River Canyon Wilderness, and two
were killed last year trying to run it. But a powerful blast
sometime this winter smoothed it out.
take my mother-in-law in her walker through it now," says veteran
river runner Brent Phelps. During his first run of the season on
April 4, Phelps found a 30-foot section of the falls destroyed. He
also found shredded duct tape and powder burns on recently broken
rock, and a piece of underwater fuse.
somebody with some knowledge of explosives," says Phelps.
"Quartzite is hard rock and (this much damage) would take one hell
of a charge."
Tonto National Forest officials
had reports by early March that the falls were altered, but thought
it might be just natural shifting of the river. An investigation
began two days after Phelps' report. Agency spokesman Stu
Herkenhoff declined to speculate about suspects, but said "somebody
may be wanting to open it up so they don't have to portage."
The portage took up to three hours and sometimes
caused a dangerous bottleneck. To ease the crowding, the Forest
Service was considering a reservation system. Gail Peters of
American Rivers says the motive could have been anything from doing
away with the portage and reservations to a misplaced concern about
safety. Herkenhoff couldn't say yet how serious a crime this was,
but thinks, "if it isn't a felony, it ought to be."
American Rivers hopes to collect at least $1,000
as a reward to help find the vandals. For donations or information,
contact Peters at 602/264-1823.