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Search teams located the body of an unidentified hiker on Tuesday morning near the Elephant Hill trailhead in Canyonlands National Park, prompting officials to remind visitors of the dangers of hiking in extreme heat.
Canyonlands and Mesa Verde National Parks launched a joint search and rescue after receiving a report about a missing hiker on Sunday. The cause of the hiker’s death is currently under investigation by San Juan County, Utah officials. In response to the incident, National Park officials encouraged visitors to prepare for the heat, to bring water and snacks, and to relax during the middle of the day.
Elephant Hill is usually a fairly easy 6.4-mile out and back hike, but on Sunday, the area saw a high temperature of 102 degrees for at least 6 hours. While not unusual for southern Utah in the summer, those triple-digit temps were a few degrees warmer and more prolonged than usual. Typical July temperatures range from 85 to 100 degrees in this part of the state.
The hiker’s death comes at a time when more than two dozen states are expecting higher-than-normal summer temps. Over 100 million people are at risk of experienced triple-digit temperatures through the weekend. This heat wave has already set roughly 60 local and state records across the United States, and it’s expected to be the most intense in the south and southwest.
Heat stroke is one of the most deadly heat-related ailments. It occurs when the body reaches an internal temperature of about 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms may vary, but common indicators may include a headache, dizziness, and a fast pulse.
U.S. national parks have seen a number of possible heat-related deaths this year. Early this month, one fatality was reported in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park, which experiences average highs of 97 degrees in July. Brad Utegaar, 27, had been parked at Alkali Falls for two days before officials found his body 2 miles off trail. (While a cause of death is still pending in the case, officials cautioned hikers to carry a gallon of water and avoiding hiking in extreme heat after the incident.) Last month, a Canadian tourist died in the Grand Canyon while hiking the popular Bright Angel Trail on a day when temperatures in the shade ranged from 95 to 104 degrees. This Wednesday, 22-year-old Maxwell Right collapsed and died after running out of water during a hike in South Dakota’s Badlands National Park.