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Utah national parks seeing increase in search and rescues

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Friday, June 29, 2018 12:12 AM
Rangers helped 114 people in Zion National Park outside of Springdale, Utah, last year, a 42 percent increase from three years ago.

SALT LAKE CITY – Rescues at Utah’s national parks are up 68 percent from 2014 – and men in their 20s are the ones most likely to need help, according to recent data.

Most of the search and rescues from last year involved male hikers in their 20s, according to statistics from the National Park Service.

Most rescues last year took place in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, the Salt Lake Tribune reported .

Rangers helped 114 people in Zion last year, a 42 percent increase from three years ago, according to the data.

Bryce Canyon, which is smaller than Zion, had fewer rescues but saw an even greater increase. Rescues there tripled from 19 in 2014 to 86 last year.

Rangers have tried to educate guests on how to stay safe, said Jeffrey Olson, a spokesman for the National Park Service. They also patrol trailheads and trails to ensure visitors have enough water and sun protection, and know the physical challenges they may encounter on any hike.

Those 86 operations added up. Staffers and volunteers spent 859 hours helping the distressed visitors at a cost of $32,000 to the park service, according to the data.

There were a total of 193 search and rescues in 2014 in Utah’s five national parks and other park service units.

The last time the park service released data was in 2014.

Bryce Canyon grew from 1.4 million visitors in 2014 to 2.5 million last year. Zion shot up from 3.1 million visitors to 4.5 million in that same span.

The state’s national park units had 12 fatalities in 2017, up from eight in 2014.

On busy days, eight to 10 volunteers in orange shirts staff Bryce Canyon’s high-trafficked areas to provide trail information, water or other assistance, similar to the setup at Arizona’s Grand Canyon.

“Without having any contact, these (unprepared visitors) panic a lot,” said Wesley Baker, Bryce Canyon’s deputy chief ranger. “They’re down trail. And now we get a call from someone saying they need help.”

Men make up about half of those nationwide needing rescue.

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