Rescues in National Parks Hit 3-Year High in 2017 | Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Rocky Mountain National Park Top 3

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Credit: Rocky Mountain Rescue Group

Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the top places in the country for search and rescues, logging an incident almost every other day last year, according to a KUNC analysis.

The costs of incidents in National Park Service areas across the country hit a three-year high in 2017. In the same period, visits rose by about 8 percent. There were 2,890 search and rescue incidents, including 159 deaths, in NPS areas in 2017.

Rocky Mountain National Park had 165 of those incidents, the third most in the nation. With the influx of millenials in to Colorado, the rise of social media, and the increasing Colorado population, this might not come as a surprise. Only Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, with 290 search and rescues, and Yosemite National Park in California, with 233, had more.

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Beautiful Rocky Mountain National Park. Credit: visitestespark

At Rocky Mountain National Park, about a third of the incidents, including five deaths, were considered major, requiring extensive resources and personnel. About 20 rangers and staffers oversee Rocky’s 415 square miles each day in the busy summer months.

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Infograph showing top 5 national parks for search and rescue incidents. Credit: KUNC

Visits are up significantly at national park areas across the country, rising from roughly 307 million to more than 330 million between 2015 and 2017, according to NPS data. About 4.4 million of those were to Rocky Mountain National Park, which last year tallied its second-highest number of visits ever.

There were 2,890 search and rescue incidents at National Park Service areas in 2017, including 159 deaths. Areas with the most incidents tend to be at high-traffic areas in the rugged west, with Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Yosemite National Park in California and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado topping the list (in that order).

The park service does not charge people who are rescued, but those who are rescued may be billed by outside agencies for transportation to emergency rooms. Last year, the park set aside $83,000 for search and rescues. All of that was used, and then some. Officials had to request an additional $138,000 for so-called nonprogrammed costs, like overtime, and another $41,000 for supplies.

If there’s any good news, it’s that search and rescues at NPS areas have been declining since the mid-1990s, according to the data. A possible explanation for that is simply that many more people are on the trails these days, able to help each other and almost everyone these days is armed with a cell phone, which aids with wayfinding.

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