Zion National Park has been called a vertical wonderland.
That means gravity rules.
You fight gravity every step you take when climbing up a trail, but there's no fighting gravity if you slip and fall from a trail that's 1,000 feet above the canyon floor.
"Going back to 1983, there have been 20 falling fatalities in the park, not including two suicides," said Ron Terry, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services at Zion. "These fatalities can be broken down as four technical climbing, three canyoneering, and the rest (13) hiking."
According to the park's website, the Emerald Pools area leads with seven falling fatalities, followed by Angels Landing with five deaths. A dozen other sites in Zion National Park have had one or two falling fatalities each.
In 2009, Terry added, there were 16 technical and 40 non-technical search and rescues recorded in the park -- many of them involving falls of some sort.
Not surprisingly, most fall injuries involve young men jumping off of rocks into the Narrow's water, which may not be as deep as they think. The result is often lower extremity injuries, such as sprains and breaks.
Of course, hundreds and thousands of people hike Zion's trails every year, with no problems. Yet an experienced hiker can die from a simple stumble. The old adage "God looks after fools and children" also comes into play, because frequent visitors to Zion can testify to careless or reckless behavior among others that seems to have no consequence.
Flip-flop sandals are fine for getting on and off the Zion shuttle buses or walking around the Zion Lodge, but are NOT appropriate for hiking up the Angels Landing Trail. Suitable foot gear and common sense can go a long way toward reducing accidents and fatalities in Zion National Park.