New York Times Headline: “At Yosemite, 18 Reminders of Dangers of the Outdoors”
Although the high number of deaths in Yosemite this past year has been all over the news, an additional death that occurred over Labor Day weekend sparked an article in the New York Times. I worked in Yosemite this summer and was in the park when the Mist Trail was closed due to 3 deaths that occurred at Vernal Falls. I was also there to see the exorbitant number of people that are visiting the park this summer (record breaking numbers for summer use) to see the waterfalls; which, I have to admit, were pretty amazing this season.
It’s tragic when anyone dies, especially when in a park or protected area when the person was supposed to be relaxing and enjoying themselves while on vacation. However, all of the press coverage about the deaths in Yosemite (and other parks for that matter – Grand Canyon, Yellowstone) has me thinking about the potential causes of the Yosemite accidents; record deaths the same year as record use numbers – coincidence? Do individual perceptions of risk change in crowded situations? Are visitors taking risks to avoid crowds that they would not take under less crowded situations? Mostly, I have been wondering if this really is a “record year” for deaths in Yosemite or is the apparent increase a result of the increase in visitor use this summer season? Are there simply more deaths because there are more people in the park and hence more opportunities for accidents and deaths? I had hoped to calculate the “per capita” rate of deaths in Yosemite over the years and use this post as a way to compare historical death rates in Yosemite. However, I was unable to find any data on the number of deaths in past years. So instead, I will just leave the post as is and hope that Yosemite does not see any more tragic accidents this season and that maybe the New York Times story will remind visitors to obey NPS posted signs and use common sense when recreating in our parks.