6 national parks sweltering due to the heat wave

6 national parks sweltering due to the heat wave

To the delight of frugal travelers, Wednesday is one of the National Park Service’s six entry-free days in 2024. But the good news, meant in honor of Juneteenth, is bad timing from a climate perspective. The holiday falls in the middle of an extreme, prolonged heat wave that is affecting much of the country. A heat dome is already causing dangerous temperatures in the Southwest and is expected to spread and swell toward the East Coast.

Extreme heat is a routine problem every summer for many desert parks, including Grand Canyon, Arches, Joshua Tree and Death Valley. In West Texas’s Big Bend National Park, temperatures can top 100 degrees late in the morning and remain dangerously high until the sun sets.

“This week will honestly be business as usual for us,” said Robert Alvarez, executive director of Visit Big Bend. “We always expect June to be just crazy hot… we’ve already hit 113 in the south.”

Although rising temperatures can be deadly, national parks do not close due to the heat like they do in other extreme weather. Rangers trust visitors to follow park advisories and walk responsibly, but visitors to national parks still die every year from heat-related causes. Not all parks have search and rescue personnel on standby, and extreme heat can prevent medical helicopters from operating, potentially leaving park visitors who put themselves at risk.

“Now more than ever, we are reminding our visitors to bring water, bring sun protection and also know the signs of heat illness,” said NPS public affairs specialist Cynthia Hernandez.

Marie Scheuring of Grand Canyon Whitewater, a company that organizes tours of the national park, tells travelers to start hydrating well before their trip, stay on top of their electrolytes and check their park’s website before their trip. Choose activities with more shade or access to refreshing rivers or pubs; the Colorado River, Scheuring notes, remains a cool 55 to 60 degrees in the summer, even when the rest of the Canyon is scorching hot. Just don’t forget to pack a life jacket, Hernandez said. The second leading cause of deaths in parks between 2014 and 2019 was drowning.

The weather forecast should serve as a warning for travelers who have outdoor trips on the calendar, and not just for travelers heading to the desert. Here are six other national parks experiencing unusually high temperatures this week.

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The St. Louis location is already in full bloom, peaking at nearly 96 on Monday. Temperatures are expected to linger in the 90s all week, reaching as high as 99 degrees on Friday and Saturday.

According to the Gateway Arch website, summer is the busiest season, so the park advises people to arrive early rather than later.

“The summer heat and humidity can be intense in St. Louis, but the visitor center under the Gateway Arch is air-conditioned and comfortable regardless of the weather outside,” the site says.

There is no entrance fee to the museum and visitor center under the arch, but a tram to the top costs $19. On Wednesdays, visitors get $3 off that price.

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The Ohio park’s website displays a heat warning for heat index values ​​of 100 to 104 degrees. The high Monday was expected to be near 95 degrees, and the forecast calls for temperatures in the mid to high 90s all week. For a weekend getaway this is expected to be in the late 90s.

On social media, Cuyahoga Valley National Park — which is free to enter — suggests visiting a local library for a photo exhibit showcasing pollinators as “a cool idea to help you stay active but safe as the heat dome hangs over Ohio .”

The park also warned visitors this week to keep cool.

“Walk sooner or later and hydrate!” says the Facebook post.

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The national military park, which includes a battlefield, museum, visitor center and other sites in Pennsylvania, warns of a heat advisory on its website, with expected heat index values ​​of up to 100.

“The heat wave is expected to continue into the weekend with the hottest temperatures of the summer yet,” the National Weather Service advisory says. “The longevity of the heat wave has not been experienced in the month of June for decades.”

Highs were expected to be around 92 on Monday and Tuesday, and 91 on Wednesday, before rising later in the week. The high could reach 97 on Saturday.

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America’s newest national park, this West Virginia location is known for its canyon walls, super-high bridge, rapids and thousands of acres of forest. The park and reserve does not charge an entrance fee. According to Park Service statistics, more than 1.7 million people visited the park last year.

Temperatures in nearby Beckley, W.Va., could hover around 90 degrees on Thursday and remain around 90 degrees through at least the weekend. The average high temperature in June is much cooler at 75 degrees.

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Shenandoah, the closest national park to DC, should be cooler than the sweltering city, but still plenty warm in places. Temperatures could be in the low 80s in parts of the Virginia park this week, rising into the low 90s Friday and into the weekend.

In a section about summer visits on its website, the park says that temperatures in the park can be 10 degrees cooler than in the valley surrounding it, but that the weather “can still become very hot and humid during the summer months.”

The site urges visitors to bring plenty of drinking water for themselves – and their pets – as well as sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. Admission prices typically range from $15 to $30 depending on how a visitor arrives, so Wednesday’s free day will be a bargain.

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Attendance at the park’s 15 miles of beach along Lake Michigan increases with the temperature, said public information officer Bruce Rowe — meaning a busy week ahead.

“We are expecting large crowds at Indiana Dunes National Park this week due to very warm weather and the midweek holiday,” he said in an email. Standard passes usually cost $15-$25.

Rowe wrote that Monday’s heat could reach a record for the date; the high was expected to be near 91, according to the forecast on the park’s website. But, he said, temperatures higher than 90 degrees are not that unusual in the summer. The forecast calls for a high of 91 on Wednesday before the heat wave subsides.

The park’s website includes a safety page that details the signs of heat exhaustion and offers tips for staying safe in the sun.