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Additional deaths in Buckskin Gulch due to flooding

At about 11:30 a.m., on Sunday, May 21, 2023, Kane County Sheriff’s office was contacted by one of their search and rescue team members, who is also a back-country guide. He stated he had received a message from a group hiking in the Paria River from the White House trail head to Lee’s Ferry reporting a deceased male individual in the canyon. The coordinates they provided indicated that they were south of the junction of the Paria River and Buckskin Gulch and about a half mile into Arizona. The Coconino County Arizona Sheriff’s office was notified of the discovery and a joint recovery mission was executed.

Left to right, photos courtesy of KCSO:

  • Gary York, located deceased on Sunday, May 21.

  • John Walter, located deceased on Monday, May 22.

The Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter stationed in St. George, Utah transported Sheriff’s Office personnel to the location of the body, which was recovered and flown to the White House Trailhead and then transported to the Coconino County Coroner’s Office. At that time, there was no immediate identification on the individual and Kane County deputies began checking vehicles at the various trailheads to try and determine the man’s identity. On Monday morning, May 22, at about 9:30 a.m., Kane County Dispatch received a call from the Westchester Ohio Police Department reporting two overdue male individuals. The families of the missing men reported they had spoken to them Saturday afternoon about 3 p.m. The men indicated they were going to hike about five miles into Wire Pass and the Buckskin Gulch. The family had not heard from them since. Pictures provided by the family confirmed the deceased male in the Paria was 65-year-old Gary York from West Chester Township, Ohio.

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Kane County Search and Rescue teams responded to the Buckskin Gulch area to try and locate the other missing individual. The searchers entered the canyon at the Middle Route trail head and searched downstream towards the junction with the Paria River. At about 5 p.m., the search crews located the body of 72-year-old John Walter from Kettering, Ohio. Further investigation shows flash flooding in the Buckskin during the time when the two men would have been hiking and it is believed they were caught by surprise and swept away by the rushing wall of water. This is the same canyon where two other men from Florida were killed by flooding in March of this year. York was carried close to 10 miles down the canyon by the flood waters and Walters, seven to eight miles. Again, we have witnessed the relentless power and danger of flash flooding in Kane County’s slot canyons.

Our condolences go out to the York and Walter families. The Kane County Sheriff’s office is forever grateful to the many volunteers who have spent so many hours in the last couple of months on these difficult rescue calls. Also thank you to the Utah Department of Public Safety and our Bureau of Land Management partners who assist us.




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