ByMichelle Siouty, writer at

I remember visiting the Grand Canyon nearly a decade ago. There is something so breathtaking and beautiful about this 277 mile long fissure created naturally by the Colorado River. As your eyes travel down the layers of the canyon, you see the gorgeous mesh of colors within the rock, which includes shades of red, cream, brown, white, green, and in-between.

It is also mind-blowing to note that the oldest layer of the Grand Canyon is 1.8 billion years old, which formed when the North American continent collided with an aged chain of volcanic islands.

Who could have guessed that such a stunning natural beauty could hold so many shocking and horrific stories of death and pain?

Both Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers have put out the second edition of their popular book titled Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, which contains a vast anthology of advisory stories about America’s most historic national park.

Amount of Total Deaths

It is difficult to gauge just how many people have died while visiting the Grand Canyon. Around 683 people have passed below the rims since the 1860s. However, if you specifically focus on the fact that the canyon became a national park in 1919 with specific perimeters delineating exactly what is considered part of the park, the number decreases to 653 people only.

Whether a person wishes to get technical or not, I feel that is one too many deaths as it is.

The Most Common Cause of Death

According to Ghiglieri, the most common cause of death has to do with both private and commercial aircraft crashes. These are the statistics:

  • A total of 65 fatal crashes of variant aircraft in and around the canyon.
  • 379 victims lives were taken.
  • Of these, 259 died within the canyon.
  • A little more than 120 people died on the bordering rims while trying to enter or exit the airspace over the canyon.

To think that many died merely attempting to enter or leave the Grand Canyon really pulls at my heart strings. We assume flying is a safe and sound mode of transportation, but this shows that is not always the case.

The Most Unusual Death

Although no one has actually died due to a snakebite in the canyon, and several people have been bitten in the past, one man unfortunately died from a heart attack upon a rattlesnake sighting.

In 1933, a 43-year-old prospector from California named Cochrane hiked down the Snake Gulch. He stumbled upon a rattlesnake, which coiled up and made a careless attempt at a warning strike. Being incredibly terrified of snakes, Cochrane jumped backwards and died of heart failure.

I supposed RDR's saying is true: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

Mother Nature's Killer Power

During the last decade, it seems that more people have been dying due to environmental difficulty, especially from getting overheated while hiking. Also, there has been an increase in people dying from falls while in the canyon as opposed to falls from the rims.

Statistics also show that more private boaters have sadly died from drowning. As terrible as these death may seem, nothing made me cringe more than the next one, a completely preventable fatality...

When a Joke Becomes Reality

In 1992, a man named Greg Austin Gingrich jumped up onto the guard wall and pretended as if he was losing his balance in order to both entertain and terrify his then-teenaged daughter. He then foolishly acted as if he fell off the wall onto a short slope a seemingly short distance away.

Gingrich actually miscalculated his footing and quietly fell about 400 feet into the abysm, where rangers had a difficult time finding his body. His poor daughter became an orphan that horribly fateful day.

This just breaks my heart, as this tragic situation could have been absolutely avoided. Did anyone else get a flashback of Simba watching Mufasa fall to his death? Someone pass me a tissue please.

A Suicidal Drop

In June 2004, a man named Richard Clam committed suicide by jumping out of a tour helicopter to his death 4,000 feet below while other people were present.

The worst part is it took fifteen Park Service Personnel to collect every part of his remains. I can't even imagine how traumatizing this experience must have been for the passengers aboard the helicopter, as well as how much pain Clam must have been in to want to off himself is such a horrific way.

If I ever travel to the Grand Canyon again, I will be even more cautious than I was when I first saw the splendorous, yet dangerous landmark that is the Grand Canyon. One wrong move can be fatal, and lack of preparation can be met with a disastrous ending.

[Source: Los Angeles Times]


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