Rescue season in Zion ‘one for the record books’

Visitors should plan, hike with a partner, and be prepared with supplies, officials warn.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) In this May 5, 2015, photo, hikers walk on the Canyon Overlook Trail in Zion National Park.

After missing for four nights and five days, missing hiker John Fiske Burg was finally discovered Saturday afternoon at Zion National Park.

The 79-year-old relied on limited cell reception above a slot canyon to contact his family and make a 911 call that eventually led to pilots from Nellis Airforce Base, which provided search and rescue support to park officials, identifying him on the top of an overlook above Lodge Canyon.

Over this past year, there have been over 160 search and rescue operations, according to Chief Ranger Daniel Fagergren, which is more than the average of 110 search and rescues the park averages yearly.

“We’ve had a total of five fatalities, just in the last four months. And so it’s been one for the record books for sure,” the chief ranger said at a news conference on Monday.

Burg was found above Lodge Canyon and is now under medical care at the St. George Regional Hospital. He went missing on Sept. 29 and was last seen on Sept. 28 at the La Quinta hotel in Kanab with about 50 other hikers.

(National Park Service) John Fiske Burg, 79, was found safe after being reported missing in Zion National Park.

A blue tarp left by Burg helped him to be located, Fagergren said, adding that hikers and visitors need to stay safe and do research before visiting Zion.

Visitors should plan, hike with a partner, and be prepared with supplies, Fagergren said.

“Bring plenty of food, water, equipment and clothing — not just for the time you plan on being out there but for an emergency as well. And this time of year I think that would mean wearing or bringing some sort of jacket,” Fagergren said. “I would bring rain gear and equipment. You just never know when we could get a late storm system moving through. I think this week we’re scheduled to have some as well.”