Which National Park Are You Most Likely to Die Visiting?

The North Cascades National Park is the deadliest National Park in the U.S. according to an analysis by a personal injury law firm.

Panish Shea & Boyle LLP, which is based in California and Nevada, worked with data visualization agency 1Point21 Interactive to identify parks in the nation where people had met a deadly end. They pulled information from the U.S. National Parks site and found that between 2007 and 2018, there were a total of 2,727 deaths at the U.S. National Parks—this equates to around eight deaths per 10 million visits.

"We feel that it is important to say that, based on our data, visiting U.S National Parks is very safe overall," says the law firm in its blog post. The teams went onto delve deeper into the data and found some interesting insights.

Out of all visitor deaths at the National Parks, men made up a disproportionate number of national park deaths, accounting for 81 percent of total fatalities. As the below graphic shows, females made up 19 percent of deaths.

Men Make Up Disproportionate Number Deaths NationalParks
The pie chart shows that 81 percent of men compared to 19 percent of women died at National Parks. 1 point 21 Interactive

The data also showed that only four parks had more than 100 deaths during the time period. These were:

  1. Lake Mead National Recreation Area – 201 deaths
  2. Yosemite National Park – 133 deaths
  3. Grand Canyon National Park – 131 deaths
  4. Natchez Trace Parkway – 131 deaths

As the team explains in its blog post, these figures do not mean you're more likely to die at these parks: "Consider that these are among the most visited parks in the nation," says the blog post. "For instance, there were more than 85 million recreational visits to Lake Mead during the years we measured.

"In order to effectively measure this, we collected the total estimated recreational visits for each park, then adjusted the total deaths per 10 million visits (minimum 10 total fatalities)," it continues. Using this method, the analysis found that people were more likely to due at North Cascades National Park in Washington state.

Ross Lake, North Cascades National Park, 2015.
The North Cascades National Park is the deadliest National Park in the U.S. National Parks Service

"With only around 30,000 annual visitors, this 500,000-acre national park had the lowest total of any park with at least 10 fatalities," the blog post says. "As a result, North Cascades National Park had a death rate of 652 per 10 million visits—6.5 times higher than Denali National Park and Preserve (100) and nearly 22 times higher than the average (30)."

The top 10 deadliest National Parks are listed below.

RankPark NameDeath TotalPark Visits (2007-2018)Deaths per 10 Million Visits
1North Cascades National Park19291,255652.35
2Denali National Park & Preserve595,870,403100.50
3Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River213,064,80668.52
4Big Thicket National Preserve111,643,76966.92
5Little River Canyon National Preserve173,199,84553.13
6New River Gorge National River6213,860,27144.73
7Virgin Islands National Park205,007,43639.94
8Mount Rainier National Park551,4583,04037.72
9Redwood National and State Parks195,191,50636.60
10Big Bend National Park164,398,97936.37

According to the data, visitors who died at the National Parks were more likely to drown. From 2007 through 2018, 668 people drowned at the parks, followed by 475 deaths resulting from motor vehicle crashes. Lake Mead National Recreation area had the most deaths from drowning (89) as well as the most overall number of deaths.

"With 89 drowning deaths, Lake Mead had nearly twice as many drowning deaths as the next highest park—Cape Hatteras National Seashore with 47," the law firm explains. "Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (35), New River Gorge National River (27), and Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (21) were third, fourth and fifth, respectively."

The data also showed that 351 deaths at the parks were "undetermined" as the graphic shows below.

How People Die in National Parks
Drowning is the main cause of death at National Parks in the U.S.. 1 point 21 Interactive

"Interestingly, despite the abundance of wildlife at national parks, only eight people were killed by wild animals," the blog post explains.

For more information on how to stay safe in the U.S. National Parks, visit the National Parks Service's website.