Trapped hikers, including 5 kids, rescued from rising rivers in Big Tujunga Canyon

Rob Hayes Image
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Trapped hikers rescued from rising rivers in Big Tujunga Canyon
Eight hikers, including five children, who were trapped were rescued after storm runoff flooded two rivers in Big Tujunga Canyon.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Eight hikers who were trapped were rescued early Monday morning after storm runoff flooded two rivers in Big Tujunga Canyon.

Montrose Search and Rescue members got the call around 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Three adults and five children, 11 to 13 years old, had set up a camp between two rivers in the canyon. When it started raining, the rivers started rising, making them uncrossable for the campers.

"The water was about waist-deep for an adult at that time, which for a smaller child would be neck-deep," said Steve Goldsworthy, operations leader for Montrose Search and Rescue.

The team's first choice: a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department helicopter rescue, but that chopper ran into too many obstacles.

"There was a set of wires directly above where their encampment was, very thick brush," Goldsworthy said. "And it started to mist. With night vision goggles, that mist just becomes a wall."

The team then sent two members to rappel down a 700-foot cliff in the darkness, but getting the stranded campers back up the cliff wasn't a safe option, so the search and rescue team literally turned the water off.

"We had the dam keeper basically close the valves out of the Big Tujunga Dam, so the water was slowly receding," explained Goldsworthy.

After a few hours, that brought the river levels down to a safe depth and the team members were able to bring the campers across using a safety line.

Nobody was injured in the rescue, but Goldworthy said it took six and a half hours, 11 rescue team members and other valuable resources for something that could have been easily avoided.

"Check the weather. I wouldn't encourage anyone to go out when we have storms forecasted like this," Goldsworthy said. "Stay home, stay warm."