Which South Dakota National Park Is One of the Most Dangerous in America?
National Parks around America offer something for everyone.
Almost all of them are breathtaking in their own way, but some take your breath away for an entirely different reason.
At some parks, there are increased levels of danger for some of the more adventurous among us.
Places like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, with its extreme temperatures and steep, narrow paths. It's no surprise that more search and rescue incidents (785) were reported between 2018 and 2020 than at any other National Park Service (NPS) property in America.
Close behind is California's Yosemite National Park, with 732 search and rescue incidents during that same time.
Those two top a new Mental Floss list of the '16 Most Dangerous National Parks in the U.S.', and believe it or not, a South Dakota NPS location made the shortlist.
The first thing that came to mind was that the people that compiled this list must be confusing real life and fantasy.
After all, Mount Rushmore was the site of Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint fighting off Martin Landau in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 film, North By Northwest.
And even the Mount Rushmore gift shop wasn't off-limits to the violence in the movie.
Then there's 2004's National Treasure, where Nicolas Cage and his ragtag team of conspiracy theorists find that elusive 'secret entrance' to Mount Rushmore.
But in real life, Mount Rushmore is a pretty safe place.
So if it's not the home of South Dakota's 'famous faces', it must be Wind Cave National Park, 10 miles north of Hot Springs.
After all, the park's website has warnings about icy roads, poison ivy, mountain lions, and charging bison.
As for the cave itself, this 2016 Tripadvisor review from mike7134 was troubling:
'Poor safety precautions. Not enough hand rails. Poor flour (sp) lightimg (sp). Extremely hard to see steps. Hard to see steps.'
But it's not Mount Rushmore or Wind Cave that made the most dangerous list.
It's actually Custer's Jewel Cave National Monument that checks in at number 14 overall.
- Grand Canyon National Park - Arizona
- Yosemite National Park - California
- Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks - California
- Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming, Montana, Idaho
- Rocky Mountain National Park - Colorado
- Zion National Park - Utah
- Glen Canyon National Recreation Area - Utah
- Grand Teton National Park - Wyoming
- Olympic National Park - Washington
- Arches National Park - Utah
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Tennessee, North Carolina
- Glacier National Park - Montana
- Mount Rainer National Park - Washington
- Jewel Cave National Monument - South Dakota
- Buffalo National River - Arkansas
- Shenandoah National Park - Virginia
That's a bit of a surprise considering that of the 39 one-star reviews on Tripadvisor, mainly complaining about a lack of tickets for tours, none mentioned anything about safety at the monument.
In fact on the monument's website, explorer Andy Armstrong writes:
'Jewel can be a difficult cave to explore. It is not particularly dangerous among caves of the world; for example, there is no vertical caving involved and there is virtually no chance of flooding. However, the distances covered and the seemingly endless succession of obstacles can make for some hard, tiring trips.'
Regardless, someone thought the place was dangerous enough to make this list.
So next time you go, be careful.
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