Hundreds of campers stranded at Catalina State Park due to flooding

KMSB News 5:30-6 p.m. recurring
Published: Jan. 18, 2023 at 6:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The storms may be over, but there’s still trouble left behind. Catalina State Park is closed due to flooding. Since Monday, campers haven’t been able to go in or out of the park.

Progress is being made slowly but surely. The road is still expected to stay closed until end of day Thursday. In the meantime, more than 300 campers are stuck on the other side of the park.

“We came in on Sunday and we’re just planning to stay that night and come back on the holiday,” said Gabriel Schirn, who was stuck at Catalina State Park since Monday. “When we tried to leave on Monday, it was too flooded for us to leave.”

Schirn and Grace Templeton are local to Tucson and it’s one of their first times camping in Catalina State Park. When the unthinkable happened, they made the best of it.

“We’ve been reading out loud to each other and singing and walking. It is a beautiful park,” Templeton said.

Like others, the pair braved the flooded Canada del Oro wash and made it across safely.

“I have a recital for the desert song festival that I’m supposed to play tonight and it looked shallow enough that we could give it a try,” Templeton explained.

Other campers are still trapped, many of them in RVs. They are safe, but running low on supplies.

“He’s in there and he’s stuck, running out of food and running out of propane and he’s cold,” a woman who wishes to remain anonymous told us about her husband, who is stuck in the park. “He met lots of cool people who are in the same situation as him. Some people walked out, across the water, went to Walmart and then walked back in and they brought him warm socks.”

Rangers said this has been an issue for awhile, but it’s usually during monsoon when there aren’t many campers. However, this is one of the busiest times of year for them.

“A few times that they’ve had flooding here, we’ve been able to walk in,” Ann Newport, who goes to the park everyday said. “We can’t even walk in now because of the dangers. But when that water floods across that road it is swift water.”

Right now, crews are working on the road as much as they can. They had a tractor working along the edge of the road all day Wednesday, but it will take time before it’s safe for vehicles and RVs to make it through.

″We can’t do much until the water recedes, because it’s not the water that stops the vehicles, it’s dumping sand. It’s the sand and it doesn’t matter if you have four-wheel drive, but with three or four feet of sand, you’re not going to get across,” Steven Haas, park manager explained.

For campers who are waiting to get into Catalina State Park, keep an eye on the Arizona State Parks website for updates.

There are plans and a budget to build a bridge over the wash so hopefully, in the next couple of years, this will no longer be an issue.