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Lake Mead deaths highest of any US National Park site

A motorist tows a boat to Callville Bay on June 21, 2021 in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Lake Mead National Recreation Area has been identified as the deadliest National Park site in America, and recent trends suggest that’s not changing anytime soon.

National Park visitation numbers show 5.58 million people went to Lake Mead last year, the ninth-most visits nationwide. Recreation areas and sites like the Lincoln Memorial draw far more visitors than many national parks.

But Lake Mead reported far more deaths from 2014-2021 than any other site managed by the National Park Service.

A total of 145 deaths including 47 drownings have occurred at Lake Mead, with Grand Canyon National Park reporting the second-most at 97 deaths.

Just this year, six deaths occurred over Father's Day weekend — three people died in a multiple-car crash, two people drowned and one suicide was reported.

Last weekend, a Henderson man drowned, raising the count so far in 2023 to 19 deaths:

  • 6 drownings
  • 6 involving motor vehicle crashes
  • 6 suicides (including Hoover Dam)
  • 1 "undetermined"

With a total of 21 deaths last year, Lake Mead was already carrying the "deadliest" label into 2023, and there are almost five complete months remaining in the year.

That adds up to 185 deaths over the 10-year period from 2014 to 2023 (partial), or an average of 18.5 deaths per year. The 19 deaths so far this year put 2023 above the 10-year average.

NewsNation affiliate KLAS in Las Vegas reported last year that 300 people have drowned in Lake Mead since it was filled in the 1930s. The decade with the most drownings is the 1990s, records showed.

And while those numbers might be disturbing, Lake Mead is not at the top of the list for highest mortality rate. That's because with so many visitors, the percentage of deaths is very small. Topping the mortality rate list for 2014-2021 is North Cascades National Park with nine deaths in 220,547 visits (0.0040808%).


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