Lake Mead, nation’s deadliest national park, is becoming even deadlier


LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The nation’s deadliest national park is becoming even deadlier as the number of deaths reported at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area halfway through 2024 is about to surpass the total number from previous years, according to data the 8 News Now Investigators obtained.

As of July 3, 19 people had confirmed to have died inside the recreation area, which includes Lake Mead and Hoover Dam, a spokesperson confirmed. Nineteen people died in the park for the entire years of 2016, 2018 and 2019, data shows.

At the end of July 2023, with seven months worth of the year completed, the National Park Service reported 19 fatalities — the same number as the first six months of 2024. The park service later updated the total number for 2023 to 29.

In 2022, the park service reported 21 deaths at the recreation area for the entire year — two above the number reported so far for half of 2024. The average number of deaths since 2007, including only years with complete data available, is about 18.6 deaths per year.

<em>FILE – Lake Mead is seen, June 6, 2023, from Boulder City, Nev. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)</em><em><button class=

FILE – Lake Mead is seen, June 6, 2023, from Boulder City, Nev. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Nearly 5.8 million people visited the recreation area in 2023, according to the park service, higher than the 5.6 million people recorded in 2022 but much lower than the more than 8 million who visited in 2020, the year of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 8 News Now Investigators previously reported that about 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.

More than 4,000 people have died at national parks from 2007 to the beginning of 2024, the latest time frame with data available. The Lake Mead National Recreation Area was by far the No. 1 site with 317 deaths reported in that time frame. Grand Canyon National Park came in second with 198 with Yosemite National Park at No. 3 with 179. Every park recorded at least one death, though 40 reported one for the 15-year timeframe.

Topping the mortality rate list for 2014-2021 was North Cascades National Park with nine deaths in 220,547 visits (0.004%), 8 News Now previously reported.

<em>FILE – A bathtub ring of light minerals shows the high water line of Lake Mead near water intakes on the Arizona side of Hoover Dam at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Sunday, June 26, 2022, near Boulder City, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)</em><em><button class=

FILE – A bathtub ring of light minerals shows the high water line of Lake Mead near water intakes on the Arizona side of Hoover Dam at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area Sunday, June 26, 2022, near Boulder City, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

As of July 3, four people had drowned in the recreational area. At the end of August last year, six people had drowned.

On average, about 18.5 people die inside the recreation area each year, data shows. The most common cause of unintentional death inside America’s national parks is motor vehicle crash followed by drowning. Four in five deaths occur among men.

Representatives at the lake advise anyone on a boat to wear a lifejacket and be aware of changing weather. Park leaders also advise not mixing alcohol with swimming.

The 8 News Now Investigators were the first to report the discovery of a body in a barrel at the lake in May 2022. Since the person is believed to have been murdered, the case is not among the 300 drownings. Investigators suspect there are more victims in the lake.

<em>FILE – In this aerial photo, a bathtub ring of light minerals shows the high water mark on the shore of Lake Mead along the border of Nevada and Arizona, Monday, March 6, 2023, near Boulder City, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)</em><em><button class=

FILE – In this aerial photo, a bathtub ring of light minerals shows the high water mark on the shore of Lake Mead along the border of Nevada and Arizona, Monday, March 6, 2023, near Boulder City, Nev. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

Water levels at the lake have slowly declined since a peak of 1,076 feet earlier this year. As of Wednesday, the water level was 1,062 feet, which remained above levels at the time in 2023 and 2022, but lower than July 3, 2021.

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