The National Park Service in Utah went on 324 rescues last year, which is a 68 percent increase from 2014, the last time statistics were released. The most common demographic needing assistance is men in their 20s, more specifically, hikers.
Visitation at National Parks across the country is up and rising, and it’s no surprise that more and more people are needing help. Search and rescue operations nationwide cost tax payers over 3 million dollars last year, with the Grand Canyon and Yosemite topping the charts for most incidents. The highest percentage of all incidents can be attributed to men in their 20’s.
Many who show up at National Parks have little to no clue what they are getting into. It’s common in Yellowstone for people to not understand that they are seeing wild animals and not a manmade “wildlife park.” On the same note, many head out into the backcountry completely unprepared with improper clothing and minimal supplies.
Park Rangers are doing their best to educate visitors, but with 7 million tourists at Utah’s Zion and Bryce Canyon Parks alone, it’s a challenge to reach everyone. Most rescues don’t involve helicopters and or anything you saw Stallone do in Cliffhanger. Usually, it’s just hikers are needing assistance due to physical fatigue, dehydration, or the effects of altitude. As a preventative measure, parks are posting staff at trailheads and a few miles into popular trails to provide assistance and water to hikers. On a sad note, park fatalities are up as well, from 8 in 2014 to 12 in 2017. Nationally there were 159 fatalities last year.
All these rescues added up to about 860 man hours and $32,000 in Utah. In the grand scheme of things, thats not a ton of money, but with national parks struggling for resources, it’s a big strain on the budget. Unless our National parks get converted to oil fields, visitation and rescue numbers are likely to keep climbing
With the rise of social media, more and more people are being inspired to get off the computer and get outside. That’s awesome. Just make sure you know before you go and are prepared with extra food water and clothing.