They awoke in the middle of the night to sounds of yelling. But by the time they knew what was happening around them early Sunday morning, it was too late for Brent Hinsley and his friends to gather up their tents and camping gear.
Instead they strapped on backpacks and quickly scaled a 100-foot cliff, pulling themselves to safety near an Indian cemetery. That's where the seven got an aerial view at Havasu Falls' raging waters below.
The group narrowly escaped a massive storm that eventually washed out an area surrounding an American Indian village - about 70 miles west of the Grand Canyon.
The flash flood trapped tourists and swept away tents, rafts, packs, food and supplies.
"What once was a nice running river was suddenly an incredible torrent of water, washing through the area," Hinsley described. "The 150-foot, clear, blue-green waterfall, had turned to mud."
Hinsley, a Roy resident, said he heard dozens of trees breaking in half and cracking from the pounding water.
While his group had to abandon some of their belongings, the 37-year-old youth pastor and his six friends consider themselves the lucky ones.
The group had initially set up at a site that was eventually submerged by the flood water. Then, just two hours prior to the massive flooding, at about 1 a.m., they packed up and moved up 50 feet to the next available site to avoid an overflowing spring.
The flash flood that ravaged the area about 3 a.m. eventually subsided about a foot below the group's new campsite.
While five of his friends hiked to a nearby village to be airlifted by rescue helicopters, Hinsley decided to go back to the scene of the floods around 5 a.m. and retrieve some gear with his friend Tyler Cunningham.
By then, Hinsley said, the floods had swallowed nearly 100 tents and campgrounds. "Everything was washed away," Cunningham said.
But Hinsley and Cunningham were able to rescue some of their belongings. They noted about 10 other tents in the high-ground area also had survived the storm.
The group described seeing campers stranded on the other side of the river as Blackhawk helicopters swooped down and lifted them to safety.
Rex Griffin said the stranded hikers had waded to the far side of the river by holding their gear overhead and simply walking through, but that was before the water's current picked up and made the river impassable.
"It was really intense," said Rex Griffin. "If you were caught in the river, it would be really hard to survive."
The flooding was caused by heavy rains in conjunction with the breaching of an earthen dam.
Griffin's wife, Jessica, said she never felt panicked through the ordeal, but she did fear for the other distressed hikers she could see. She said the people trapped on the other side of the river yelled to her group for help, but there was nothing they could do.
"That was the hardest thing," said Jessica Griffin.
Jessica Griffin said one girl had to cling to a tree because she could not make it to a rock, so she held on as long as she could. Eventually, Griffin said, some of the area American Indians told the girl to let go of the branch, and they grabbed her arm and pulled her from the rushing water.
The campers eventually hiked into a nearby village where helicopters airlifted about 350 villagers and campers to a Red Cross tent near the trail head to Havasu Falls area.
Authorities on Tuesday accounted for a group of 11 hikers who were reported missing Monday, but they continued to follow more than 100 reports of feared-missing hikers.
Coconino County Sheriff's Office spokesman Gerry Blair said Tuesday that about 200 visitors had signed in with authorities, saying they planned to stay in the area through Sunday.
"We believe we have a pretty good handle on who was down there, but there is a possibility that there may be people in the canyon we're not aware of," Blair said, adding that search crews are flying over the area and moving through on foot where it is safe to hike.
Hinsley - who stayed an extra night in the Havasupai village after helicopters quit flying people out Monday night - finally arrived home in Roy on Tuesday afternoon. Looking back, he said the whole experience was unprecedented in his experience.
"I've been going to that specific area for seven years," said Hinsley. "And I've never seen anything like that."