Over 300 million people visited America’s national parks in 2017 – with hundreds of millions more visiting ecological and geologically protected areas around the globe. National parks are beautiful places, there’s no doubt about that. But they can also be dangerous killers too. Nearly 150 people died in America’s national parks alone in 2017. But what to look out for?
From dangerous animals to heat stroke, pneumonia and exposure, or even the very real risk of climbing that rock for the perfect selfie, there are a whole host of things to consider when planning a national park trip.
But that’s not to say these dangers can’t all be avoided. With a little planning and some active thought, any National Park trip should be as safe as your usual beach package holiday or a city break. And trust us, with some of the most amazing scenery you can find around the world – it’ll be totally worth that little bit of extra effort!
Eyes on the Wheel
It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of national parks, but traffic accidents kill more people in the US’ national park system than anything else. “People are looking at things other than the road – they’re sightseeing,” said Gerry Gaumer, deputy chief of public affairs for the National Park Service (NPS). So, make sure you take a pit stop before losing yourself in those scenic mountain views, and definitely don’t try to take a photo or video while driving.
The other biggest danger in National Parks is your own health. Many people head off on a trek, without considering how strenuous it might be. This can cause heart attacks, exhaustion and other unpleasant consequences on unfit people. These are wilderness areas, without easy access to get back to your car should you feel unwell. Plan accordingly, and consider your fitness levels before you leave.
Secondly – and we know this sounds obvious, but people do forget – bring any medication you need with you before setting out on a hike or walk! Many people die or are hospitalised by treatable conditions such as diabetes when in national parks every year. Don’t forget and let that be you.
Water and Shade
National Parks such as African Safari zones, Death Valley and others in Asia and South America particularly – can get extremely hot. Heat stroke can be a quiet problem, that creeps up on you before you know it. And anyone can get it, even strong people at peak fitness.
The National Park Service recommends three tips for when visiting The Grand Canyon in hot weather, and these can apply more generally around the world too. They are:
- Don’t be overambitious with your route
- Bring more water than you think you’ll need – and then more than that.
- Inform someone who isn’t going on the trip where you are going and when you expect to be back.
So, there you have it. Despite the media reaction around such things as bear attacks, lighting strikes and flash floods – these things are actually quite rare. Rather, it is people’s own failure to prepare themselves for their environment that leads to their downfall. So, just plan ahead a little and you can easily enjoy your park experience in safety and comfort.