Rescue finds family stranded by bad GPS directions near Arizona Strip

Jan 16, 2020, 12:12 PM | Updated: 2:17 pm
Photo: Bureau of Land Management

ST. GEORGE, Utah — A family on the way to the Grand Canyon wound up stranded near the Arizona Strip instead — so far from help or cell phone signal that a father and son walked 20 miles to get help in freezing temperatures. The culprit? Bad GPS directions.

The BLM Arizona Strip Field Office says the family was driving back to Colorado from their vacation in California over New Year’s, and wanted to see the Grand Canyon on the way.

A family road trip meets bad GPS directions

Their smartphone maps app told them to take backcountry roads.  So they went through the high desert east of Mesquite.

The GPS led them over about 30-40 miles on the dirt roads in the Arizona Strip. But then the car got stuck in the deep mud, clay and snow on Black Rock Mountain.

That’s 7,500 feet elevation.

The mom and two younger kids stayed in the car while the dad and teenage son tried to walk back to a town. After about 20 miles, they finally got a cell signal.

Mohave County officials determined the father and son were at the Lime Kiln Canyon area.

A Mesquite police officer got to the pair and put them in a patrol car to warm up. Then BLM and National Park Service rangers followed tracks to the rest of the family.

“What they did was pretty miraculous”

The news release from the Bureau of Land Management says rangers got to the family before they got too cold and dehydrated. They said it is a miracle the family survived in such a vast, remote area.

“They were actually pretty lucky. They weren’t prepared for the conditions, and this time of year there are very few people out there,” said BLM Law Enforcement Ranger Jason Bulkley. “The father and the son, what they did was pretty miraculous. I don’t know how they did it.”

The rangers said they could see the relief on the woman’s face when they told her the husband and son were ok.

“Getting lost and stranded in the backcountry in cold weather like this could have proven disastrous, and we’re thankful that the family involved was rescued without any injuries or loss of life,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley.

A history of bad trips

This is not the first time bad GPS directions resulted in stranding someone in or near the Arizona Strip. The BLM’s official Tumblr account offers a similar tale about a Pennsylvania family from several years ago. Rangers told KSL they also rescued someone from the same spot just about a year ago.

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Rescue finds family stranded by bad GPS directions near Arizona Strip