Next time you’re at the Grand Canyon take a moment and walk out to the edge of the canyon’s rim. Don’t be crazy of course, but when you’re close enough to see over the lip think about the fear of falling. The sudden reality that the ground is no longer stable and the canyon’s floor is coming fast. Think it’s crazy that people actually fall? Don’t worry you’re not alone, most people can’t believe people fall over the edge. Since 1925 over 53 people have fallen to their deaths within Grand Canyon National Park. Though some happened out of pure stupidity the sad reality is most of these deaths were avoidable if only some caution had been exercised.
Stick to the Paths
Planning on exploring the canyon rim? Then make sure to stick to the paved paths. Remember this isn’t Disneyland, Grand Canyon rangers will say if they see you reaching out over the edge to snap the perfect photograph. It might sound like a joke at first, but the words of advice are dead on. Many falling deaths have occurred when visitors decided to leave paved paths and get a better vantage point.
One of the largest dangers with walking out on the rim is that though the ground may look stable, underneath it can be undercut. This means the ground beneath your feet is actually paper-thin due to erosion that has carved out the canyon wall beneath you. Since the Grand Canyon is ever changing and the southwestern rock can crumble at any moment, a ledge that appears stable may fall out unexpectedly. If it does, the gathering momentum can take a person hundreds, if not thousands of feet down into the canyon in a matter of seconds. Trust us, the odds of survival are not good if you start to fall.
Always Watch the Kids
In 2007 tragedy rocked the park when 4-year-old Natalie Yeargan fell more than 400 feet from Mather Point. Natalie’s father scrambled down the canyon’s wall to try and rescue her, but she was pronounced dead at the scene after CPR was performed. Natalie was the youngest confirmed falling death in the Grand Canyon and a reminder about the potential dangers of letting your children explore the rim.
If traveling with young children make sure to tell them about the dangers of playing on the rim. Spend a Saturday at Bright Angle Overlook and it’s not uncommon to see children balancing on the short rock wall overlooking the canyon. Off the paths and behind the walls, children can find small cracks to climb down into giving the perception of falling into the depths only to pop back up with a smile and ‘ta da!’ coming out of their mouths.
Though these opportunities might great YouTube clips and family portraits, it’s an incredibly dangers position to be in. Loosing balance just for a second can send children careening down the cliff struggling to find something to hold onto.
Read all about it
Looking for some light reading? Then make sure to check out Death in the Grand Canyon by Thomas M. Myers. Myers, a prolific journalist and author, painstakingly documents every death in the Grand Canyon breaking down the casualties into categories. According to Myers, up until 2001 there were 53 fatalities from falls, 65 to environmental causes, 79 drowned, 242 in airplane and helicopter crashes, 7 caught in flash floods and several more deaths in freak accidents, rock falls, suicides and even homicides.
Though a tad bit morbid, Myers’s work is riveting and insightful into a topic most people tend to dismiss when visiting the park. Though the book can be overwhelming at first, the lessons learned could help save your life and give you a better understanding of what to do when faced with a life-threatening situation.
Remember to Think Twice
Photography can be a beautiful part of a visitors experience to the Grand Canyon, but it’s important to always ask yourself if the photo is worth dyeing for. Many times photographers climb out on the edge to frame their picture without any people or manmade structures. Though the picture might be a nice souvenir, it’s also a life-threatening situation to be in. So next time you want to click the shutter make sure to take a second and step back and ask yourself, ‘is this really worth my life?’