Search for missing man suspended; sheriff’s office will continue search when conditions are more favorable

Meg Soyars and Kyle McCabe
Sky-Hi News
Ari Harms, a white man in his thirties, has not been seen since witnesses say he got in an inflatable kayak on the Colorado River on May 28.
Grand County Sheriff’s Office/Courtesy photo

Over the weekend the Grand County Sheriff’s Office continued its search for Ari Harms, a white male in his 30s who went missing from Pioneer Park campground in Hot Sulphur Springs on May 28. On June 4, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office announced that search operations were suspended.

Search crews used six dog teams from around the state to assist in their June 3 search for Harms, according to the sheriff’s office. Their focus was on Byers Canyon and downstream towards Parshall. This resulted in additional short-term traffic closures in Byers Canyon as the dogs worked along U.S. Highway 40.

“Thank you to those of you who were impacted by these closures, as these closures allowed an important search task to be accomplished safely,” stated Erin Opsahl, communications director for the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office and partnering agencies spent six days intensively searching in the Byers Canyon area, but have not located Harms.

“After speaking with Ari’s family last night, we have made the difficult, but necessary decision to suspend official search operations until the conditions of the Colorado River change in the upcoming weeks,” Opsahl stated in an email to Sky-Hi News.

Opsahl explained that they expect a decrease in the water levels and flow of the river, which will allow search teams the opportunity to more safely access and search the river. This will include areas they have been previously unable to search, due to responder safety and logistical concerns.  

So far, the search has found a kayak matching the description of the one which a witness said Harms entered the river, Harms’ backpack and some of his personal belongings. A citizen found the kayak May 29 near the west end of Byers Canyon — the opposite side of the canyon from the campground — and search teams found the backpack and other belongings June 1.

Sheriff’s deputies will continue to monitor this area on a daily basis. All river closures associated with the searches have been rescinded. 

“Many people have inquired about the ability to privately search the Colorado River for Ari and we are highly discouraging this to ensure their safety and prevent any future tragedies,” Opsahl stated.  

The sheriff’s office encourages anyone traveling through the Byers Canyon area, recreating in the canyon, or recreating further downstream to be vigilant. People can report any sightings or other clues to Grand County Dispatch at 970-725-3311.

“It has been a difficult week for Ari’s family and friends, as well as our first responders who have been working so diligently to reunite Ari with his family,” Sheriff Brett Schroetlin stated. “We remain committed to making this happen, and will continue with our efforts when the conditions are more favorable.”

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