National Park With the Highest Death Rate Doesn’t Want to Make Changes

Last Updated on March 30, 2023 by Jess

When you think of the most dangerous national park in the country, you might think of the Grand Canyon with its towering cliffs or Denali with its high peaks and bitter cold. But the national park with the highest mortality rate is neither of these.

It’s a park you may never have heard of, with only 30,154 visitors in 2022. North Cascades National Park in Washington is one of the least visited parks in the country, yet it has the highest mortality rate of all 63.

Let’s learn more about what’s going on in Northeast Washington.

How many national parks are there in the U.S.?

There are 63 national parks in the United States. These are the largest units and range from Alaska to Florida, with dozens of parks in between.

The most visited is Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. In 2022, it had 12.9 million visitors.

Other top national parks include the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, each with 4.7 million visitors, and Rocky Mountain National Park, with 4.3 million visitors. Acadia National Park ranks fifth with 4 million visitors in 2022.

This compares to 30,000 visitors to North Cascades National Park. Among the least visited parks are several parks in Alaska such as Kobuk Valley National Park, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.

Isle Royale National Park in Michigan is also less visited, with only 25,844 visitors in 2021.

Is visiting national parks dangerous?

Visiting these national treasures is not dangerous per se. However, there are vast wilderness areas in some national parks that are far from help and modern conveniences.

Others have rocky cliffs and dangerous wildlife that can pose a threat. Each park has its own risks.

However, as long as visitors heed the signs and warnings, follow the guidelines established by the National Park Service, and use common sense, a trip to these 63 places is as safe as a week-long family vacation at the beach.

Where is North Cascades National Park located?

North Cascades National Park is located in northwest Washington near the Canadian border. Highway 20 passes through the park, but there are very few other roads, making this a very remote location.

Limited highway access is one of the reasons the park is one of the least visited national parks in the country. It is located about 2 hours northeast of Seattle and 2.5 hours southeast of Vancouver, Canada.

About North Cascades National Park

The alpine landscape of North Cascades National Park is unique in the Lower 48, with more than 300 glaciers on its jagged peaks. It is a place of tranquility where water cascades into forested valleys.

More than 500 lakes and ponds dot the mountain ranges. There are also over 1,600 species of plants in this diverse wonderland.

Mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, elk, mountain lions, wolverines, black bears, grizzly bears, and river otters call this area home. Dozens of other birds, small mammals and reptiles also live here.

There are few structures or roads in North Cascades National Park, as it is almost entirely protected as wilderness. Camping is regulated by a permit system and requires hiking, horseback riding, or boating to reach designated campsites.

Please note: Is Gerber’s prediction of the “death spiral of the RV industry” coming true? Click on the link to find out!

Why does North Cascades National Park have the highest mortality rate?

Due to the large amounts of snow and the high mountain peaks, avalanches are not uncommon in North Cascades National Park. This is another reason why the park is not as heavily visited.

Very few guests come during the winter season. But this is also a risk for hikers and mountaineers who visit the park in the cold, snowy months.

However, climate change is also affecting snowmelt. Snowfields are becoming looser, leading to more falling rocks and ice. These huge boulders and ice can easily send a hiker or climber plummeting to their death.

From 2007 to 2021, there were 3.7 deaths per 100,000 visitors to the park. In those 15 years, 14 people died in North Cascades National Park. This may not seem like much (less than one per year), but it is concerning when the park is visited by fewer than 20,000 people annually.

In other parks, the death toll is higher. For example, more people die in Death Valley National Park due to heat exhaustion and other factors. However, the park also had 1.1 million visitors in 2022.

Although causes of death are not listed in the federal report, park rangers in Washington state that climbers and hikers were the visitors most often rescued or found dead.

Falls from ice and rock are not uncommon, and unfortunately, due to the nature of alpine climbing, falls from the mountains are also the cause of these deaths.

What changes do climbers want to see in North Cascades National Park?

Many climbers believe the park service can do more to make North Cascades National Park safer. One of the suggestions is to limit the use of screw anchors – devices climbers use to hold onto mountains.

These anchors are the safest and most stable equipment climbers can use to protect themselves from falls. But not everyone agrees with the use of these anchorages.

Some object to them because they permanently alter the landscape. The park service strictly protects the wilderness area of North Cascades National Park and allows only traditional climbing methods that leave no trace.

Please note: Have you also heard stories about wild people living in national parks? Find out why so many believe these rumors!

What other national parks have high mortality rates?

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska ranked second on the list with 1.09 deaths per 100,000 visitors. Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks in California ranked third with 0.99 deaths per 100,000 visitors.

Finally, Denali National Park in Alaska also topped the list with 0.93 deaths per 100,000 visitors.

A study of the most dangerous national parks found that in 12 years, a total of 2,727 deaths occurred in U.S. national parks.

It goes on to say, “Drowning (668 deaths) is the leading cause of death in national parks and national recreation areas. Drowning is followed by motor vehicle accidents (475 deaths), falls and slips (335), natural causes (285), and suicide (260).”

The study also found that despite the abundance of wildlife in all parks, only eight people died from wildlife-related causes over the 12-year period.

View of Cascades National Park, the national park with the highest fatality rate.

Will there be changes to ensure visitor safety?

That’s the question park officials are asking. Will they stick to protecting the natural landscape of North Cascades National Park, or will they do more to protect climbers and hikers on the most popular routes?

Some continue to argue the many pros and cons of the proposed screw anchors. Only time will tell if the Park Service will change its stance.

Do you think screw anchors should be allowed in this rugged wilderness?

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