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Summer heat prompts trail closure at Lake Mead

Goldstrike Canyon and Arizona Hot Spring trails within Lake Mead National Recreation Area are temporarily closed as a safety measure during the summer’s hottest months.

This closure includes National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation lands and began Friday.

Public safety incidents in these canyons have doubled from 2013 to 2014, according to Christie Vanover, public affairs officer for the National Park Service. In 2013, there were 17 incidents, which resulted in one fatality, 31 patients and five medical transports. In the first seven months of 2014, there have been 37 incidents, resulting in three fatalities, 35 patients and 13 medical transports.

“We have added signs to discourage summer hiking in these remote areas. Unfortunately, these signs are not having the desired effect,” said Patrick Gubbins, deputy superintendent, Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

July 27, rangers were called out to Goldstrike Canyon and hiked a mile down to carry-out an adult who was suffering from severe cramps. July 29, rangers were called out to rescue two adults on Goldstrike Canyon who were dehydrated. Along the way, they encountered seven other hikers who were out of water. July 30, two adults and three juveniles hiked to the Arizona Hot Spring without enough water to make the hike back up. Another visitor transported them by boat to safety.

“People are miscalculating their ability to hike these strenuous trails in the summer, and it’s not only endangering their lives, it’s endangering the lives of other visitors and rescue crews,” Gubbins said.

This summer at Goldstrike and Arizona Hot Spring trails, there have been 21 incidents on days that topped 100 degrees, and each incident lasts an average of three hours.

The closure is in place on National Park Service managed lands through Aug. 30. Park managers will analyze incidents and weather data to determine if the closure will be extended. The closure on Bureau of Reclamation managed lands is in place for 45 days, but may be terminated earlier.

“Hiking is very popular in the fall, and we plan to reopen the areas when temperatures are cooler,” Gubbins said. “During the closure, visitors can still access the popular hot springs via the much cooler route along the Colorado River.”

The area known as White Rock Canyon has multiple trails leading to the Arizona Hot Spring, Liberty Bell Arch and the Colorado River. Goldstrike Canyon is a strenuous hike requiring bouldering and climbing. It leads to Goldstrike and Nevada hot springs and the Colorado River.

The River Mountains Loop Trail and Historic Railroad Trail remain open; however, hiking is discouraged during the summer months. Those who choose to hike are encouraged to follow summer safety tips found online at http://www.nps.gov/lake/planyourvisit/summer-hiking.htm.

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