By Patrick Horning
Aids To Navigation/Dive Leader Glen Canyon NRA
If you have been to Lake Powell, chances are you have
seen the National Park Service 46-foot buoy tender at
work. The vessel and its crew are on the water 10 hours
a day, maintaining the buoy system and marking hazards.
The crew of two has over 300 floating and fixed aids
on Lake Powell, stretching from the river at Lee’s Ferry
to Mille Crag Bend above Hite. Besides keeping a
constant watch on the buoy system, this crew maintains
the anchor and dock systems at Rainbow Bridge and
This past winter all new anchor points were installed
and cables replaced at Dangling Rope. The lower lake
levels allowed the crew to remove old cables that had
been dropped and abandoned in the past.
This may seem to be a lot of work for two people, but
the crew is also responsible for teaching safe-boating
classes to park employees who operate boats. Beyond all
of this, what keeps these men — Pat Horning and Rick
Moore — eager to show up to work each day is their
passion for water and boating safety.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area operates what is
arguably the finest Underwater Search and Recovery team
in the nation. Horning and Moore are the heart and soul
of this team that has accomplished incredible feats over
Whether diving in deep dark water, or operating the
park’s remote-operated vehicle (ROV) "Victor 1," no
victim of a water-related accident has been left in Lake
Powell in over 15 years.
This unit has developed and uses sophisticated
methods to find and recover drowning victims from depths
approaching 500 feet deep and in areas exceeding three
square miles. Their methods have been taught to divers
and police from around the country in an effort to
expedite underwater searches and allow for closure for
those folks who have lost a loved one in a water-related
The National Park Service allows this team to assist
other government agencies with unresolved underwater
searches. The team travels frequently and has gone as
far as King Salmon, Alaska, to search for drowning
What makes the Glen Canyon method of search
successful is the commitment of the team to use a system
that incorporates the latest in underwater technology,
computerized mapping, and a careful detailed approach to
information gathering. Over the last 15 years, this
system has cut the cost of underwater search
significantly and has been 100 percent effective in
finding and recovering every victim of underwater
accidents at Glen Canyon NRA, as well as many others in
the western United States.
Being involved in these tragedies has fostered
commitment by this crew to prevent accidents before they
happen. A great deal of time is spent during the winter
months speaking on water safety at boat shows, schools,
or wherever they can get the safety message out.
When they observe dangerous activity on the lake,
they will explain the danger to the boater and give
friendly advice on how to enjoy the lake without
sustaining an injury or an accident.
Pat Horning recently returned from a trip to Parker,
Colo., where he spoke at the Grand Opening of the Double
Angel Ballpark. This ballpark was built in memory of
Logan and Dillon Dixey — two small boys who were victims
of carbon-monoxide poisoning behind a houseboat at Lake
This tragedy focused the nation on the problem of
carbon monoxide and boats. Ken and Bambi Dixie, the
parents of the boys, created the Double Angel foundation
to memorialize the two boys by providing a
state-of-the-art baseball facility for the youth of the
Denver area and to eliminate the problem of carbon
monoxide and boating.
Horning was able to report in his speech that in the
last three years, there have been no
carbon-monoxide-related deaths at Lake Powell.
Educating boaters about the dangers of carbon
monoxide has reduced the incidence of drowning at Lake
Powell by 50 percent. This is a tremendous
accomplishment, but even one drowning in a year is too
Cliff diving historically has resulted in more deaths
and injuries than any other activity at Lake Powell.
Because of this, the park service has prohibited jumping
from heights greater than 15 feet.
This year, four very serious accidents have occurred
while boaters were using kite tubes. These large
wing-shaped towable toys are designed to become airborne
with their riders when being pulled at speed of up to 40
miles per hour.
The promotional videos show what appears to be an
exciting, but safe, flight when, in reality, the tubes
have no means of control. A slight dip or a change of
speed in the vessel can cause the tube to violently drop
from its height, slamming the rider into the water.
Superintendent Kitty Roberts has banned the use of
these toys on Lake Powell.
Some of the other major concerns on Lake Powell are
Speed in Proximity violations, where vessels approach
other boats and occupied shorelines too closely.
And, also important is Safe Operation of Personal
Watercraft: Remember, while in the state of Utah, minors
must have taken a PWC course and obtained a permit
before operating by themselves.
This course is offered by Utah State Parks at Lake
Powell several times a week.
On your next visit to Lake Powell, keep an eye out
for the big white boat and Horning and Moore. They are
watching out for you.