By Ned Perry

In August 2008, I witnessed the largest rain event in my ten years of working as a river guide in the Grand Canyon. As I pulled my boat into the current one afternoon and prepared for a long hot row to camp, I saw the tip of a billowing cloud poke its head over the north rim. When the clouds rolled in, I was thankful for some respite from the heat.

The river gods had something else in mind.

Rain began to fall hard and then grew harder. The canyon walls narrowed, and waterfalls began to flow off the rim. The first beach we passed was a tiny affair, barely big enough for my 24-person trip, but the storm was growing more violent and finding camp was urgent.

As I finished anchoring my boat, I looked up and watched a jet of water fly off the top of the redwall limestone, directly above my head. It disappeared behind a ledge, and a few moments later jetted out again, still directly above me but much closer. I climbed onto a large boulder as the torrent exploded off the last ledge and down onto the beach where I’d hoped to sleep that night. In a matter of seconds, half the camp had disappeared and the boats were barely rescued from being washed away with the beach.

A river through camp:

Witnessing a rain storm Grand Canyon is always an incredible experience; seeing over 100 waterfalls pouring down at once and a river moving through camp was a spectacle beyond description.

As night fell, we set up our tents on a small spit of sand that hadn’t been carried away by the flood. We huddled against a vertical cliff with water flowing on three sides. An island in the storm.

–Ned Perry has worked as an OARS river guide in the Grand Canyon and Idaho for over a decade.

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