What Really Kills People Visiting National Parks?

National Parks and Fatalities

Trekkers with hiking backpacks visit our national parks to witness the glory and splendor of the great outdoors.  Each year thousands of worldwide nature lovers and tourists with travel backpacks visit our U.S parks. The National Park Service keeps records of any fatalities in their parks. What causes the most to succumb is not what you would expect. Typical reasons people think would be to blame, like bear and wild animal attacks, are not common.  Although it is possible to provoke an animal in the wild that would kill you, the odds are rare.

What Are The Odds?

Roughly 315 million people visit national parks every year. Between120-140 fatalities occur annually in these parks. However tragic, that is a small percentage overall, making your odds of dying there about 1 in 2 million.  It’s reassuring to know the odds are low for outdoor lovers. The actual cause of demise among backpack hikers, campers and tourists is remarkable.

 Highest Rated Demise

The biggest culprit is drowning. Currents in rivers, children playing in creeks and hikers suffering from fatigue and dehydration attempt to swim without nourishing and hydrating first. Muscle cramping catches swimmers off guard and disables them. Knowledge is power, so if you are trekking all day, be aware of your body and give it what it needs before you make it sustain you above water. Picture yourself around the campfire and enjoying alcoholic beverages. It’s great to kick back after a day of exploration. You get the notion that a swim would feel great. Over-indulgence of alcohol and deep water never mix well. Even riverbed and lakeside rocks can be slippery and have you unexpectedly in the water. Use caution anytime you are around bodies of water.

Fatal Crashes

Who would guess that motor vehicle accidents would rate high on the list for fatalities in parks? Distracted tourists admiring the scenery caused 27 percent of fatal crashes. Alcohol played a role in a 23 percent of these accidents. Foreign visitors who crossed the center line to drive on the wrong side of the road caused 14 percent of fatal crashes according to the National Park Service statistics.

Use Caution When Hiking

Some hikers and climbers are not as careful as they should be on dangerous mountains and trails. The Grand Canyon led the list of fatalities in 2014.  Potentially fatal lightning accompanies summer thunderstorms in the Grand Canyon.  Backpack hiking enthusiasts can easily become dehydrated and experience heat exhaustion and stroke. Climbing to different elevations can cause shortness of breath, make you nauseous and easily fatigued. Sunscreen is crucial for obvious reasons year round. The very dry climate may affect you differently than your home environment, so keep water on hand at all times.

Observing Wildlife

As much as you enjoy observing the wildlife, animals in the parks are wild, unlike those you visit at the zoo. You should always stay at least 100 feet from elk, mountain lions, deer, bighorn sheep and California Condors. If the animal approaches you, you must be responsible by backing away slowly to maintain the 100 feet distance. Feeding the animals is prohibited for their safety as well as yours. Be sure to not discard food wrappers on the ground or fail to rinse out your empty cooler. Leftover scents can attract them, even from a distance.

Hike Safely

With safety and good sense foremost on your mind, and in your actions, every hiking camping backpack trip and walkabout will end in a pleasant memory. Be aware, not naive to the limits of nature, and enjoy. Happy Hiking!


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