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Pre-Memorial Day Deaths in National Parks Raise Safety Concerns for Holiday Weekend

A recent national park death and severe injury have created serious concerns for guest safety. We know many of you will visit these spots soon, so we can’t ignore this tragic topic. 

Visiting NPS units is a great way to create memories. Sadly, not all of them will be positive.

We want you and your loved ones to have a summer to remember for all the right reasons. Today, we’re looking at these events to see what we can learn from them.

Let’s get into it!

Early Season National Park Death and Injury Spark Concern

Over a recent weekend, Rocky Mountain National Park had its first significant rescue of the season. A 37-year-old climber fell approximately 30 feet while climbing. A partner used a satellite communication device to reach officials. 

After determining their location, dispatchers sent help as quickly as possible. Officials released no information regarding the individual’s name or the extent of their injuries.

However, they stated the injured person was flown to Upper Beaver Meadows and later transferred via ambulance to Estes Park.

Less than 24 hours later, a 28-year-old female visiting Glacier National Park wasn’t nearly as lucky. The visitor fell into the turbulent waters of Avalanche Creek. Hikers nearby spotted her in the stream and pulled her out.

Despite administering CPR, notifying rangers, and calling 911, the woman was pronounced deceased.

With the busy season approaching, this isn’t a good sign. Millions will flock to these tourist destinations nationwide in the coming months. We hope this isn’t a sign of what we can expect for summer.

Pro Tip: 7 National Parks to Avoid this Summer

Which National Parks Are the Most Dangerous?

There are some inherent risks of visiting rugged environments. However, some NPS units are more dangerous than others. Sadly, the three deadliest are also the most popular. The more people who visit, the more lives we lose.

Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon are the most dangerous. These parks see approximately 20 million visitors in total each year. Over the last several decades, the trio has been responsible for hundreds of fatalities.

One survey found 2,727 deaths occurred in national parks between 2007 and 2018. With an estimated 3.5 billion visitors, this equates to roughly eight deaths per ten million visitors.

So while the risk is low, it’s far from being zero.

What Is the Leading Cause of Death in National Parks?

The previous survey also indicated drowning as the leading cause of fatalities. Between 2007 and 2018, there were 668 lives lost due to drowning. Visitors often underestimate the power of rushing water. All it takes is losing your balance or footing for a second.

The water can sweep you away and toss you against sharp rocks.

The second most common cause was motor vehicle crashes. Drivers often get distracted looking at the scenery or navigating unfamiliar roads. This is another example of how distracted driving can be deadly.

Sadly, the third most common way people die while visiting NPS units is undetermined causes. In these instances, officials can’t pinpoint an exact cause.

Closely behind undetermined deaths are those from slips and falls. Guests get too close to a ledge or lose their footing on trails. 

These four scenarios accounted for approximately 67% of deaths in America’s national parks during the 11 years studied. If you want to stay safe, avoid these dangerous activities.

Did you know: National Parks have feral people, according to many outdoor enthusiasts.

What Should You Do if You’re Injured in a National Park?

Injuries and emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye. As a result, you must have a plan in place and communicate it with everyone in your group. After all, a strategy is worthless if you’re the only one that knows it.

If you or someone in your group experiences an injury, you should first assess the situation. If it’s a minor injury, it may require rest, water, or discontinuing the activity. On the other hand, serious injuries require a rapid response.

When possible, call 911 as quickly as possible. Communicate your location as best as possible and describe where you are. Once you reach out for help, stay in one place. If there’s no cell signal, attempt to flag down aid while minimizing the movement of the injured individual. You want to make yourself visible so rescuers can find you.

If you’re not traveling solo, stay in groups of two or more. When it’s just you and an injured individual, you may have no choice but to leave them to find help.

How to Avoid Injury and Death in National Parks

Educate yourself to avoid injuries and deaths at national parks. How can you prepare or be aware of something if you don’t know it’s a danger? Thankfully, the NPS websites typically have information about potential hazards and how to avoid them. Take time to familiarize yourself with the risks.

It’s also vital that you are mindful of your physical limitations. Hiking at higher elevations can be exhausting. These activities can be dangerous if you’ve been training or preparing. Know your limits and listen to your body. If you push yourself too hard, you can quickly find yourself over your head.

In general, it’s best to keep your distance from wildlife and ledges. Visitors should remember that wildlife roaming about aren’t pets or domesticated animals. With minimal effort, they’ll toss you around like a rag doll.

Your selfies and pictures will still look good several feet from the ledge. Use the zoom feature to give the illusion that you’re closer than you are. No amount of likes on an Instagram photo is worth risking your life.

Be Aware of the Risks, But Never Stop Exploring

We are heartbroken whenever we hear of deaths occurring in national parks. When people enter these spots, the last thing many think about is that they won’t leave alive. However, tragedies strike at these beautiful locations all too often.

Don’t let you or one of your loved ones be next. Do whatever it takes to stay safe during your adventures this season.

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