US national parks welcome millions of visitors each year, but between 2014 and 2021, more than 2,000 people died there. Here are the five national parks with the highest number of deaths compared to visitor numbers during this time, based on data from the National Park Service.
1. North Cascades National Park
Located in Washington state, North Cascades National Park has the highest fatality rate, of any number of visitors, with nine deaths reported between 2014 and 2021 (0.004%).
2. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in Alaska
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in Alaska ranked second with four deaths (with a fatality rate of 0.003%).
3. Wrangel St. Elias National Park and Reserve
Also located in Alaska, Wrangell-Saint-Élie Park is the largest US national park. And 11 deaths were recorded in 2020, two of which were due to animals or nature (0.002%).
4. Fort Bowie National Historic Site
Fort Bowie National Historic Site ranks fourth, with only one fatality recorded (0.0015%).
5. Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site
The Naif River Indian Villages National Historic Site finally comes in at the bottom of the top five, with one death as well (0.0011%).
Parks with the highest number of deaths
Lake Mead National Recreation Area, straddling Nevada and Arizona, is the deadliest park, with 145 reported deaths, including 47 drownings.
The Grand Canyon comes next with 97 deaths in 8 years, but contrary to popular belief, more than half of those deaths were due to a medical condition, not a fall. The heat is often the trigger for hikers. Yosemite Park has identified 94 of them.
All told, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has recorded 80 deaths, and Natchez Trace Park 74, including 62 in car accidents.
The parks with the highest death tolls have a fatality to visitor ratio of less than 0.003%, and are often the most visited parks.
Causes of death
Of the 2,092 deaths, 415 are due to motor vehicle accidents, 402 are due to drowning and 385 are of a medical nature.
Also among the causes of death are falls (206), environmental causes (91), transportation (65), murder (27), poisoning, police interventions, and others. Five deaths are said to be caused by nature or animals. The cause of death of 449 is still unknown.
One of the animal deaths occurred in 2015 in Yellowstone Park, where a woman was attacked by a female grizzly, who was eventually killed.