Eldredge: Heat likely caused hiker death in Canyonlands

A 35-year-old Netherlands man was found dead Aug.28 in Canyonlands National Park, a quarter mile from a hiking trail at Island in the Sky.

Local authorities began a search and rescue mission for the man after the rental information of a vehicle left at the Upheaval Dome trailhead matched the name of an overdue guest at a Moab hotel.

According San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge, National Parks Service (NPS) officials noticed the vehicle, which had remained in the Upheaval Dome parking lot “a couple days.”

“They started to get a little bit concerned that he had not come back from hiking,” Eldredge said.

After hearing that the Moab City Police Department responded to a local hotel regarding an overdue guest, Eldredge said NPS officials checked the car.

“They heard over the radio that Moab [police department] was going to one of the motels on a person who had not checked out of his room,” Eldredge said. “They found out it was the same individual — same name — that was on the rental agreement on the car.”

According to Eldredge, a park ranger immediately contacted Classic Air Medical helicopters, allowing San Juan County deputies and NPS rangers to locate the man’s body “rather quickly.”

“They found his body … approximately a quarter mile off the trail,” Eldredge said. “We suspect [he died] from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.”

Eldredge cautions those planning on hiking in hot and dry conditions, noting that such temperatures increase the potential for life threatening situations.

“You need to be prepared [with] enough water, enough … electrolytes,” Eldredge said. “You just got to be prepared to go out in the heat. People just don’t expect these things and the body will start to shut down and do crazy things once it goes without water for a little bit.”

If planning to hike, Eldredge suggests planning a morning or evening trip and always bringing plenty of water.

ByBy Molly Marcello

The Times-Independent