America's most dangerous national parks

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Scary photo, huh? It's a park in China, not the U.S., on Huashan Mountain called "ear-touching cliff," so named because if you don't hug that rock face as you walk (thereby pressing your ear against it) you might end up like Wile E. Coyote -- pancake-flat, at the bottom of the chasm. No, America's parks aren't quite this dangerous, but we've got some doozies, according to a comprehensive 2002 survey of park rangers. Here are some of the country's most dangerous parks, and why:

#1: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
It's on the Arizona-Mexico border, at a spot where up to 1,000 illegal immigrants pass each day. 70,000 lbs. of pot were confiscated here in 2001, and the park doesn't have enough rangers to stem the tide.

#3: Padre Island National Seashore
Besides drug smuggling and illegal immigrant traffic, this Texas Gulf Coast park has to contend with endangered turtle poachers and illegal commercial fishing.

#6: Grand Canyon National Park
Overcrowding encourages petty crimes like car theft and pickpocketing, and overzealous hikers tend to get themselves stranded in hard-to-find, hard-to-reach spots, where they -- ulp -- die of thirst and exposure.

#7: San Juan National Historic Site
This Puerto Rican park is plagued by urban gangs.

#10: Gateway East, Sandy Hook Unit
The only beach in New Jersey to allow alcohol and nudity is, perhaps not coincidentally, also one of its most popular, receiving more than two million visitors per year. Combine millions of nude drunks with what the state considers some pretty big terrorist targets floating past in the major shipping lanes the park is adjacent to, and you've got a potential problem.

December 13, 2006 - 4:25am
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