Excessive heat in Grand Canyon forces warnings for parkgoers

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Travelers are being warned to avoid Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park on Friday due to excessive heat. 

Temperatures are expected to reach up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit on the canyon’s South Rim and an excessive heat warning is in effect inside the canyon below 4,000 feet. 

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The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) also warned in an advisory that smoke was present inside the canyon from wildfires in California and Oregon.

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Flagstaff wrote that the warning would remain in effect until 6 p.m. MT and that temperatures could climb to 114 degrees in the lower elevations of the Grand Canyon including Phantom Ranch and the Colorado River. 

“Extreme heat will significantly increase the potential for heat-related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities,” the agency cautioned.

Furthermore, the service said that physical activity was discouraged between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. MT.

Day hikers, the NPS said, should descend no further than 1.5 miles on Bright Angel Trail and should attempt to be out of the canyon and at Indian Garden or Bright Angel Campground between that six-hour window.

Hikers are advised to “hike smart,” bring adequate gear like a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, salty snacks, sufficient water and an electrolyte mix.

“Hike in the early morning or late evening—avoid hiking between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.,” the NPS wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post. “Bring a headlamp, as well as plenty of food and water, in case you need extra time to cool off in the shade. Consider hiking above the rim where the temperatures will be their coolest; if you think 90 [degrees Fahrenheit] and above is cool!”

“Oh, and please don’t bring pets into the canyon, they are not allowed on trails and are unable to regulate their body heat as well as their human companions,” the service noted. “Their paws can get burned, too!”

Parkgoers are advised that efforts to assist them may be delayed in the summer due to limited staff, the number of rescue calls, employee safety requirements and limited helicopter flying capability.

Hikers are advised to rest often, stay hydrated and well-nourished and wait for shade. 

In addition, the NPS advises individuals to soak themselves in water to stay cool and help decrease core body temperature. 

Hikers should also watch out for health hazards including heat exhaustion, heatstroke, hyponatremia and hypothermia.

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The Grand Canyon, which spans over 277 miles of the Colorado River and adjacent uplands, sees millions of visitors every year. 

It placed sixth on the list of “10 Most Visited ‘National Parks’ in 2020,” with a total of 2.9 million recreational visits amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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