Death in Hot Springs Canyon

The notes of caution stated above were not idle comments. On the night of August 7, 2006, a pickup truck pulling a trailer full of hay sped southward on Cascabel Road past the houses at Helfrich's ranch and tried to cross the Hot Springs Canyon Wash. Although no rain had fallen along the roadway that day, a very heavy downpour had occurred earlier in the evening far upstream near the Muleshoe Preserve, and the Wash was now running in a strong flood across the road. The truck's trailer was pulled downstream off the concrete strip by the water and the truck, dragged after it, stopped with only one truck wheel remaining on the track while the waters roared around it. One of the riders fell out immediately into the flow, while the other stood on a strawbale in the trailer. Drivers stopped at the scene saw the situation and tried to throw the man a rope, but he lost his balance and was also swept away. One body was recovered a short distance downstream and the other well downstream along the San Pedro Riverbank. Sue Newman, who lives nearby and made the 911 call that brought the police, reports that after the flood subsided the officers found that the vehicle's engine was still running, so had the two men stayed inside it they would have been saved.

In November 2006 this memorial shrine could be seen on the northwest side of the Wash crossing (looking north). (Click on the image for a closer view.) (Note that the 1984 photo shown a bit further below was taken from the embankment on which the shrine stands.)

In February 2007 another memorial was located a short distance further north (downstream): (Click on the image for a closer view.)

While everyone living along the river mourned the loss of these men, most of us would say in response to those who in the aftermath of such tragedy call for more and bigger bridges: this road and its living context must be known and respected. Not only is speed (along with Valley Fever-bearing dust it raises) a danger here, but so is the unpredictability of desert rainfalls, alternating between absolute absence and (sometimes) sudden gross overabundance. Most of us who live along this route say: learn this land and learn to respect it. Wrapping oneself in a cocoon of high technologies for the sake of risk-avoidance with speed can only be allowed to intrude here to very limited degree. (Simply put: too much high tech means destruction of the wildlife surround that makes life such a joy being here.)

Below; a 1984 flood photographed from the north bank.