These 2 Arizona national parks are among the deadliest in the country. Here's why

The U.S. National Park Service has welcomed more than 300 million visitors on average to any of the country's 63 national parks every year since 2019.

But not every trip pans out accordingly.

A recent finding revealed the total number of visitor fatalities in the national parks within the past 10 years, according to information collected by the National Park Service's public risk management program.

Placed at the top of the list was Arizona's Lake Mead National Park, showing a record of 203 deaths between July 2013 to July 2023.

Grand Canyon National Park follows closely behind at number 3, with 136 recorded deaths within that same time frame.

How did other national parks rank on the deadly scale?

  1. Lake Mead National Recreation Area: 203 deaths from July 2013-July 2023

  2. Yosemite National Park: 152 deaths

  3. Grand Canyon National Park: 136 deaths

  4. Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 104 deaths

  5. Blue Ridge Parkway: 100 deaths

  6. Natchez Trace Parkway: 89 deaths

  7. Baltimore-Washington Parkway: 83 deaths

  8. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: 75 deaths

  9. Golden Gate National Recreation Area: 70 deaths

  10. Yellowstone National Park: 53 deaths

The data also highlighted statistics around fatalities by sex, according to the press release from Journo Research. Nearly three-quarters of unintentional deaths over the past 10 years have been male, the release said.

Among causes of death, males were most likely to die from drowning, medical incidents, and motor vehicle crashes, the study found. Males were also found to be 85% more likely to die from drowning and 82% more likely to die from a medical incident than women.

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Why are there so many deaths at Lake Mead?

With rising lake levels and dangerous monsoon winds, Lake Mead National Park has been identified as the deadliest national park in America, totaling 145 deaths out of its average of roughly 5 million guests per year between 2014 and 2021. Reports say 47 of those deaths were drownings.

In the past year alone, the death toll at the park rose to 19 fatalities, with six of them attributed to drownings. This prompted park officials to issue a safety warning. In the preceding year of 2022, 24 deaths were recorded.

Officials stated in a release that strong winds and unpredictable rain can create "hazardous conditions" for both boaters and swimmers, leaving little to no warning for park visitors.

"Unsafe behavior" and failure to adhere to safety protocols, such as wearing a life jacket, are also contributing factors to the death count, park officials say.

Decomposed remains have also washed to shore within the past year due to the lake's history surrounding organized crime in Las Vegas, located only a few miles from the strip.

What secrets still lurk in Lake Mead? Bodies and boats surface as water levels decline

How many people have died at the Grand Canyon?

With an average of 5 million visitors per year, the natural wonder experienced a total of 10 guest fatalities in 2023, and 11 the year before. Since the 19th century, over 900 people have died at Arizona's largest tourist attraction, averaging 12 deaths per year.

The most common type of death, according to statistics, are airplane and helicopter crashes, followed by falling. The report goes on to state that falls can be both accidental and intentional, with death by suicide occurring more often than the former.

The report highlighted environmental deaths such as dehydration and starvation, along with drownings in the Colorado River, as additional factors contributing to the park's mortality rate.

How to stay safe in the Grand Canyon

Some tips from the Grand Canyon National Park rangers include:

  • Stay on designated trails and walkways and always keep a safe distance of at least six feet from the edge of the rim.

  • In areas where there is a railing or fence, do not climb over the barrier.

  • Keep an eye on all of the people in your group, especially small children. Make sure that your travel companions have both feet firmly planted on pavement or developed trails at all times.

  • Do not run, jump, or perform physical stunts when near the rim.

  • Do not back up without first looking at where you are going.

  • Arizona's temperature can be deceiving and deadly. Hike when it's cold outside, try early mornings and evenings when there's more shade.

  • Wear proper shoes, clothing, a hat and sunscreen.

  • Hydrate before you go. Have plenty of water, more than you think you need. Turn around and head back to the trailhead before you drink half of your water.

  • Carry a mobile phone and remain in contact with others.

  • Hike with others. If hiking solo, tell someone your start and end times, and location.

  • Do you have a medical condition? Asthma, heart problems, diabetes, knee or back problems? Don't push yourself! "Even trained athletes have been caught off guard by getting dehydrated on Arizona trails."

  • Enjoy the Sonoran Desert's beautiful and undeveloped landscape, but please stay on designated trails.

  • Don't be "that person" — the one who wasn't prepared, shouldn't have been there for health reasons or ignored safety guidelines. Be the responsible hiker, who takes a hike and does it right.

Crisis hotlines for Arizonans

Services for Arizonans in crisis include:

  • Dial 2-1-1 at any time to reach the free 2-1-1 Arizona information and referral service and connect with free resources available locally throughout the state.

  • Solari Crisis & Human Services offers a free, statewide crisis line 24/7/365 – dial 844-534-HOPE (4673). Help is also available 24/7/365 via text by texting “hope” to 4HOPE (4673).

  • Dial 988 to reach the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Help is available in English and Spanish. It's free and confidential for those in distress who need prevention or crisis resources for themselves or loved ones.

  • La Frontera Empact Suicide Prevention Center's crisis line serves Maricopa and Pinal counties.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Deadliest national parks: Lake Mead, Grand Canyon make the list