Death Valley Welcomes Tourists Despite Fatalities in Record-Breaking Heat

Tourists are still flocking to Death Valley, despite a searing U.S. heat wave that has caused several deaths.

Hundreds of Europeans touring the American West, along with adventurers from around the U.S., are still being drawn to Death Valley National Park, even though the desolate region is known as one of the Earth’s hottest places.

The valley, known for its record-breaking temperatures, has become a hot spot for tourists seeking to witness its extreme climate. The National Park Service (NPS) is warning visitors very clearly about the dangers of such high temperatures, which can cause severe heat stroke and even death, but many people are still keen to visit the harsh desert landscape.

A sign reading “Heat Kills!” on July 8, 2024, in Death Valley National Park, California. Death Valley is the hottest and driest place in the United States, but tourism continues.

Mario Tama/Getty Images Entertainment/GC Images

Temperatures in Death Valley have soared to near record levels, with the park experiencing highs of 129 degrees Fahrenheit this week. The heat is part of a broader heat wave that is affecting much of the southwestern United States, with the National Weather Service issuing warnings that affect one in five Americans.

In these conditions, heat-related illnesses are a significant risk. According to the NPS, a 65-year-old man was found dead in his car in July after temperatures reached 126 degrees Fahrenheit, and another man died earlier in the summer due to heat exposure​.

The temperatures were so high that emergency helicopters were unable to respond to the travellers; it is considered unsafe for them to fly at temperatures above 120 degrees.

Last Sunday, a motor cyclist died from heat exposure after temperatures reached 128 degrees, with another of his companions being hospitalized. Park Superintendent Mike Reynolds warned visitors to take care in the heat, saying: “High heat like this can pose real threats to your health.”

Despite these fatalities, the park remains open, and visitator numbers are high. Park rangers reported to the Independent last year that the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, one of the park’s most well-known areas, remains a popular spot for tourists to take photos​​, even though temperatures have been on the rise annually.

Park staff continue to advise visitors to come prepared, emphasizing the importance of staying on paved roads, carrying plenty of water, and avoiding strenuous activities during the hottest parts of the day. According to the Associated Press, temperature records are being broken across the West and Pacific Northwest, with rises expected to continue to the end of this week.

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